New study sheds light on link between domestic abuse and mental illness

Research conducted at Birmingham University has revealed that women who have experienced domestic violence are three times more likely to suffer from a serious mental health problem than those who have not.

The study, which was published in the British Journal of Psychiatry, found that survivors of domestic violence were twice as likely to need prescription medication, and were twice as likely to develop anxiety and three times as likely to develop depression, schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.

The study — which involved 18,547 women who had been exposed to domestic abuse, compared to 74,188 women who had not — found that while some of the women had experienced mental health issues prior to the incident(s) of violence, following domestic violence the risk and occurrence of mental health issues rose dramatically. 

The researchers concluded that “IPV [intimate partner violence] remains a significant public health issue”. They pointed out that GPs and other medical professionals should be more aware of the risk this group of women are exposed to, stating that if women who are suffering from depression, anxiety or a serious mental illness after experiencing domestic violence are identified as needing treatment, early intervention and access to therapy could improve their chance of recovery.

This is the first UK-based study to assess the link between increased risk of mental illness with domestic violence exposure. While there is more public awareness of domestic violence now, it is still woefully underreported, especially given that it is estimated that up to one in three women will experience domestic violence in their lifetime. 

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