Intimate partner violence exposure and change in women's physical symptoms over time

J Gen Intern Med. 2008 Jan;23(1):64-9. doi: 10.1007/s11606-007-0463-2. Epub 2007 Nov 28.


Objective: To examine the change in women's self-reported physical symptoms over 2 time points in relation to intimate partner violence (IPV) exposure.

Design: Prospective interview study of 267 women recruited from 8 health care settings and surrounding communities in Metropolitan Boston.

Methods: We created sums of somatic symptoms at 2 separate time points (a mean of 9.5 months apart) using items from a modified PHQ-15. A measure of symptom change was computed to measure the net change in symptoms over time. A negative score indicated reduction in total symptoms, or improvement. Exposure to IPV was measured at both time points.

Results: Women who reported ongoing IPV across both time points experienced an increase in their overall physical symptoms compared to women with past abuse (p = .0054) and no abuse (p = .0006). In multivariate regression analysis, ongoing IPV at both time points was a statistically significant predictor of symptom change. This relationship persisted even after controlling for age, race, education, depression, self-report of co-morbid illness, and history of child abuse and prior sexual assault (p = .0076).

Conclusions: Women exposed to ongoing IPV report increased physical symptoms over time. Clinicians should consider the possibility of IPV in patients who remain persistently symptomatic over time in addition to employing more traditional means of detecting IPV.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Battered Women
  • Boston / epidemiology
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Health Status*
  • Health Surveys
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Interviews as Topic
  • Prospective Studies
  • Spouse Abuse*