The impact of current and past interpersonal violence on women's mental health

Soc Sci Med. 2005 Apr;60(8):1717-27. doi: 10.1016/j.socscimed.2004.08.026.


Violence against women, and more particularly male partner violence, is frequent. Although there are many studies on the consequences of violence on women's mental health, a number of aspects are still unclear. The impact of violence is seldom studied in the context of other risk factors of mental distress, psychological abuse is rarely considered, and older women are generally excluded from the sample. This study aims to analyze the relationships between current and past violence and three indicators of current women's health--psychological distress, the use of psychoactive drugs and a subjective evaluation of health--controlling for demographic and social characteristics. We conducted a cross-sectional survey among patients of family practices in an Italian town and 444 women responded to a self-administrated questionnaire: 20% of them had experienced some kind of abuse in the last 12 months and 5.2% reported physical or sexual aggression, mostly (4%) inflicted by a partner or ex-partner. Current violence was strongly associated with psychological distress, the use of psychoactive drugs and a negative evaluation of health. Experiencing solely psychological abuse with no sexual or physical violence was also associated with impaired health. The relationship between current violence and health was independent of age. After controlling for age, education, children, marital and employment status, women victims of partner violence were around 6 times more likely to be depressed and to feel in bad health, and 4 times more likely to use psychoactive pills than other women. Moreover, there was a strong association between past and current violence. Compared to women who reported no violence, women who reported both types were 5.95 times, women who reported only current but no past violence were 4.81 times, and women who reported only past but no current violence were 3.01 times more likely to report psychological distress.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Family Characteristics
  • Female
  • Health Status
  • Humans
  • Mental Health*
  • Middle Aged
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • Spouse Abuse / psychology*
  • Stress, Psychological / complications
  • Substance-Related Disorders / complications
  • Women's Health*