Abused women have higher risks for numerous medical disorders

Research Activities, April 2010, No. 356

Health care professionals who treat women for mental health problems, sexually transmitted diseases, or serious injuries may want to ask their patients about possible abuse, suggests a new study. After scouring medical records and interviewing 3,568 randomly sampled women, researchers found that the 242 women who reported being abused in the past year had higher relative risks for certain mental, musculoskeletal, trauma-related, and reproductive conditions.

In fact, compared with women who never experienced domestic violence, abused women had nearly a sixfold increased risk of substance abuse, a fivefold greater risk of family or social problems, and a threefold greater risk of depression. Additionally, these women were more likely to have been diagnosed with sexually transmitted diseases and have cuts that required medical care. The study authors recommend that care providers be especially suspicious when women seek treatment for any of these conditions, because abused women may not volunteer that they are victims of abuse.

These findings reinforce earlier studies that found high injury rates for abused women. However, the researchers suggest that their study improves on the methods for collecting data because they used randomly sampled women from a health plan and had physician diagnoses in lieu of gathering data from women seeking medical services. This study was funded in part by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (HS10909).

See "Medical and psychosocial diagnoses in women with a history of intimate partner violence," by Amy E. Bonomi, Ph.D., M.P.H., Melissa L. Anderson, M.S., Robert J. Reid, M.D., Ph.D., and others in the October 12, 2009, Archives of Internal Medicine, 169(18), pp. 1692-1697.

Current as of April 2010
Internet Citation: Abused women have higher risks for numerous medical disorders: Research Activities, April 2010, No. 356. April 2010. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, Rockville, MD. http://archive.ahrq.gov/news/newsletters/research-activities/apr10/0410RA10.html