Violence against women by their intimate partner and common mental disorders

Soc Sci Med. 2008 Feb;66(4):1008-18. doi: 10.1016/j.socscimed.2007.10.021.


The World Health Organization considers gender violence a cause of anxiety, depression and suicidal thoughts among women. This study investigated the association between violence committed against women by their intimate partners, defined by psychologically, physically and sexually abusive acts, and common mental disorders, assessed by using the Self Reporting Questionnaire (SRQ-20). A population-based household survey was carried out among women aged 15-49 years in two sites: São Paulo, the largest Brazilian city, and Zona da Mata of Pernambuco, a region with both urban and rural areas in the Northeast of the country. A large proportion of women reported violence (50.7%). The most frequent forms were psychological violence alone (18.8%) or accompanied by physical violence (16.0%). The prevalence of mental disorders was 49.0% among women who reported any type of violence and 19.6% among those who did not report violence (p<0.0001). After adjustment for demographic and socioeconomic characteristics, the nature of the relationship, stressful life events and social support, all the forms of violence studied, with the exception of sexual violence alone or accompanied by either physical or psychological violence (p=0.09), were significantly associated with mental disorders: physical violence alone (OR1.91; CI 95%1.2-3.0), psychological violence alone (OR 2.00; CI 95% 1.5-2.6), sexual violence alone or accompanied by either physical or psychological violence (OR1.80; CI95% 0.9-3.6), both psychological and physical violence (OR 2.56; CI 95% 1.9-3.5) and all three forms of violence (OR 2.68; CI 95% 1.8-4.0). This is the first population-based study on the association between intimate partner violence and mental health in Brazil. It contributes to the existing body of research and confirms that violence, frequently experienced by women in the country, is associated with mental disorders. Policies and strategies aimed at reducing gender-based violence are necessary for preventing and reducing anxiety and depression among women.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Brazil / epidemiology
  • Domestic Violence / psychology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Mental Disorders / epidemiology*
  • Middle Aged
  • Social Support
  • Stress, Psychological