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Women who suffer abuse use mental health care services more than women who have never been abused

Research Activities, September 2009

Women who were abused by their partners use significantly more mental health services than women who have never been abused, regardless of how recently the abuse occurred, a new study finds. Researchers surveyed 3,333 women aged 18 to 64 in the Pacific Northwest and found that mental health service use was highest when the physical or nonphysical (verbal threats or controlling behavior) abuse was ongoing. However, women who experienced abuse recently (within 5 years) or remotely (5 years ago or longer) still accessed mental health services at higher rates than women who were never abused.

These findings indicate that abused women are higher users of mental health services even after the abuse ends, the authors suggest. They recommend that mental health professionals routinely ask women if they have suffered abuse so that interventions can be employed. Compared with women who never experienced abuse, women who were physically abused used more emergency, outpatient, pharmacy, and specialty services.

These rates may be the result of the women seeking care for injuries that result from the abuse. Accordingly, women experiencing ongoing physical abuse had total annual health care costs that were 42 percent higher than women who never suffered abuse. Women who experienced recent nonphysical abuse had total annual health care costs that were 33 percent higher than women who never suffered abuse. This study was funded in part by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (HS10909).

See "Health care utilization and costs associated with physical and nonphysical-only intimate partner violence," by Amy E. Bonomi, Ph.D., M.D., Melissa L. Anderson, M.S., Frederick P. Rivara, M.D., M.P.H., and Robert S. Thompson, M.D., in the June 2009 Health Services Research 44(3), pp. 1-16.

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Current as of September 2009
Internet Citation: Women who suffer abuse use mental health care services more than women who have never been abused: Research Activities, September 2009. September 2009. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, Rockville, MD. http://archive.ahrq.gov/news/research-activities/sep09/0909RA24.html