A new study by Dr. Amy Bonomi (right), an associate professor at The Ohio State University’s Department of Human Development and Family Science, finds that victims of intimate partner violence have a significantly heightened risk of many medical and psychological problems. The study notes:
Compared with never-abused women, women with a past-year history of IPV had a pronounced increased risk of psychosocial/mental health diagnoses, with an almost 6-fold increased risk of clinically identified substance abuse, a nearly 5-fold increase in family and social problems, more than 3-fold increase in depression, and a more than 2-fold increase in anxiety/neuroses and tobacco use. Also of note was the more than 3-fold increased risk of sexually transmitted disease diagnoses and the 2-fold increased risk of lacerations as well as consistently significantly increased risk of diagnoses within the major categories of musculoskeletal and female reproductive conditions.
“Roughly half of the diagnoses we examined were more common in abused women than in other women,” Bonomi told Scienceblog. “Abuse is associated with much more than cuts and bruises.”
The study compared the medical diagnoses of women who had been abused with those of women who had never been the victim of domestic violence. Again, from Scienceblog:
While other research has found a link between intimate partner violence and health, this is among the first major studies that has not relied on self-reports by women about their health status.
“We were able to go to the medical records and find out what abuse victims had been formally diagnosed with in the past year,” Bonomi said.
“These women are not just saying they are depressed or have cuts and bruises,” she stressed. “They are going to the doctor and having their problems diagnosed.”
In addition, the study improves on past work because it includes a random sample of women enrolled in the health plan, and not just women who were already seeking some kind of health services.
Bonomi noted that many of the doctors involved in treating these women probably didn’t know of their abuse history.
“For most women, abuse likely never enters into the conversation with their doctors,” she said.
And Bonomi’s numbers may even be conservative, because she only used women with health insurance in the study. (Women without health insurance are more likely to be victims of domestic violence, Scienceblog notes.)