Social support protects against the negative effects of partner violence on mental health

J Womens Health Gend Based Med. 2002 Jun;11(5):465-76. doi: 10.1089/15246090260137644.


Objectives: Social support for abused women may reduce the impact of abuse on mental health, yet few studies have addressed this issue. We wish to determine associations between intimate partner violence (IPV) and mental health outcomes and to assess the protective role of abuse disclosure and support on mental health among abused women.

Methods: A cross-sectional survey was conducted of 1152 women, ages 18-65, recruited from family practice clinics from 1997 through 1999. They were screened for IPV during a brief in-clinic interview, and physical and mental health status was assessed in a follow-up interview.

Results: IPV, defined as sexual, physical, or psychological abuse, was associated with poor perceived mental and physical health, substance abuse, symptoms of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), current depression, anxiety, and suicide ideation/actions. Among women experiencing IPV and controlling for IPV frequency, higher social support scores were associated with a significantly reduced risk of poor perceived mental health (adjusted relative risk [aRR] 0.5, 95% confidence interval [CI] 0.3, 0.6) and physical health (aRR 0.6, 95% CI 0.5, 0.8), anxiety (aRR 0.3, 95% CI 0.2, 0.4), current depression (aRR 0.6, 95% CI 0.5, 0.8), PTSD symptoms (aRR 0.5, 95% CI 0.4, 0.8), and suicide attempts (aRR 0.6, 95% CI 0.4, 0.9).

Conclusions: Healthcare providers can be instrumental in identifying IPV and helping women develop skills, resources, and support networks to address IPV. Physicians, family, or friends may provide needed social support.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Age Distribution
  • Aged
  • Confidence Intervals
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Data Collection
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Mental Health*
  • Middle Aged
  • Prevalence
  • Risk Assessment
  • Risk Factors
  • Social Support*
  • Spouse Abuse / prevention & control*
  • Spouse Abuse / statistics & numerical data*