Health Mental and physical health impact of domestic violence lasts a lifetime

Mental and physical health impact of domestic violence lasts a lifetime

One-in-four Australian women will experience violence by an intimate partner in their lifetime.

The impacts can last a lifetime. That’s the shocking finding from a study from The University of Newcastle which shows women who experience violence by intimate partners have long-term physical and mental health problems, including cancer.

The study tracked more than 16,000 women across three generations for 16 years — the first to investigate the health impacts of domestic violence over such a long period of time.

Professor Deborah Loxton said domestic violence can lead to depression and anxiety.

“Domestic abuse is also associated with a higher prevalence of chronic pain and headaches, cervical cancer, chronic disease, and problems with physical function that affect quality of life,” Professor Loxton said.

“Many people don’t realise that stressful life events impact physical health as well as mental health. It’s vital for clinicians and healthcare workers to understand that these women’s health issues are real, and that they are long lasting.”

The researchers found the physical health of women who experienced domestic violence was consistently worse than for others of the same age.

Overall, women’s mental health steadily improved with age, but women who experienced abuse had consistently worse mental health than those who had not.

Professor Loxton said interventions and support available to women are often only for the immediate crisis period.

“Unfortunately, the reality for one in four Australian women is that the physical and mental health impacts of domestic violence could last a lifetime,” she said.

“We need policies and interventions in place to provide support for the women who are still feeling the impact 10 or 20 years later.”

“From our other ongoing research, we know social support can be very helpful — women with social support, like accessible psychological care or support networks, do better in the long-term.”

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