Patients' experiences of abuse in health care: a Nordic study on prevalence and associated factors in gynecological patients

Acta Obstet Gynecol Scand. 2007;86(3):349-56. doi: 10.1080/00016340601185368.


Background: In an earlier Swedish study conducted with The NorVold Abuse Questionnaire, we found that one-third of female patients who had experienced adult abuse in health care (AAHC) had a background of childhood emotional, physical and/or sexual abuse (EPSA) ('revictimised'). But since the majority of women with AAHC were 'new victims' without such a background, there might be other factors associated with AAHC. The present study aimed to map prevalence of abuse in health care (AHC), and associated variables among new victims and revictimised patients.

Methods: We carried out a cross-sectional questionnaire study at 5 Nordic gynecological clinics. Associations between AAHC and other variables were tested in a multivariate model in 4 groups of women with adult EPSA, childhood EPSA, childhood and adult EPSA, and no EPSA.

Results: The response rate was 77% (n=3,641). The overall prevalence of any lifetime experience of AHC was 13-28%. High educational level, physical complaints, post-traumatic stress symptoms, and sleeping problems were associated with AAHC in women without EPSA (new victims). Poor self-rated health was strongly associated with AAHC in the 3 groups of women with EPSA.

Conclusion: AHC is commonly reported by gynecological patients in the Nordic countries, but not yet properly explored or understood. The most important factors associated with AAHC were high educational level and poor self-rated health.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Educational Status
  • Female
  • Gynecology*
  • Health Personnel*
  • Health Status
  • Humans
  • Professional-Patient Relations
  • Scandinavian and Nordic Countries / epidemiology
  • Sex Offenses / statistics & numerical data
  • Sleep Initiation and Maintenance Disorders / epidemiology
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / epidemiology
  • Stress, Psychological / epidemiology
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Violence / statistics & numerical data*