People With Mental Health Disorders More Likely Than Others To Experience Domestic Violence
December 27, 2012

People With Mental Health Disorders More Likely Than Others To Experience Domestic Violence

Lawrence LeBlond for - Your Universe Online

Domestic violence (DV) can be emotionally scarring no matter who is involved, but some may be more prone to it than others, according to a new study.

Those with mental health disorders are more likely to have experienced domestic violence than the general population, say researchers from King´s College London´s Institute of Psychiatry and University of Bristol. Their study follows previous research showing a link between DV and depression. However, the new study is the first to look at a wide range of mental health issues in both male and female victims.

In this study, published today in PLoS ONE, researchers looked at data from 41 global studies. They discovered that women with depressive disorders were 2.5 times more likely to have experienced DV over their lifetime than women without any mental health problems. Women with anxiety disorders were more than 3.5 times as likely to have experienced DV; and women with post-traumatic stress disorders (PTSD) were 7 times more likely to have experienced DV. The prevalence estimates for DV in these cases were 45.8%, 27.6%, and 61.0%, respectively.

The researchers also found that women with other disorders such as obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), eating disorders, schizophrenia and bipolar disorder were also at increased risk of DV compared to women who had no mental health problems.

The team found that men with mental health disorders were also at an increased risk of DV, although the prevalence estimates for men were much lower than those for women. The results indicate that it is less common for men to be the victims of repeated DV than women.

“In this study, we found that both men and women with mental health problems are at an increased risk of domestic violence,” said Professor Louie Howard, senior author of the study from King's. “The evidence suggests that there are two things happening: domestic violence can often lead to victims developing mental health problems, and people with mental health problems are more likely to experience domestic violence.”

“We hope this review will draw attention to the mental health needs of survivors of domestic violence and remind general practitioners and mental health teams that experience of domestic violence may lie behind the presentation of mental health problems,” added Professor Gene Feder, study coauthor from Bristol´s School of Social and Community Medicine.

“Mental health professionals need to be aware of the link between domestic violence and mental health problems, and ensure that their patients are safe from domestic violence and are treated for the mental health impact of such abuse,” concluded Prof. Howard.

The UK Home Office, the lead government department for immigration, passports, counter-terrorism, policing, drugs and crime, said it will be amending the definition of DV beginning in March of next year.

The new definition for domestic violence will include 16 and 17 year olds, and will be defined as “any incident or pattern of incidents of controlling, coercive or threatening behavior, violence or abuse between those aged 16 or over who are or have been intimate partners or family members regardless of gender or sexuality. This can encompass, but is not limited to, psychological, physical, sexual, financial or emotional abuse.”