Objective: To determine the prevalence of domestic violence among patients seen in three university-affiliated ambulatory care internal medicine clinics and to assess the personal characteristics of those patients affected by domestic violence.
Design: Survey using a self-administered, anonymous questionnaire.
Setting: Three university-affiliated internal medicine clinics at the University of California Irvine Medical Center.
Participants: We asked all patients on randomly selected days during the three-month study to participate. 453 (72%) of the 629 eligible English- and Spanish-speaking patients completed the questionnaire.
Measurements and main results: 28% of participants had experienced domestic violence at some time in their lives, and 14% were currently experiencing domestic violence. Logistic regression analysis showed that female gender, unmarried status, and poverty were important predictors of domestic violence. However, domestic violence occurred in all groups regardless of sex, ethnicity, age, or socioeconomic status.
Conclusions: The study found an unexpectedly high prevalence of domestic violence in the three internal medicine clinics. Physicians should ask their patients routinely about domestic violence and, when domestic violence is present, should offer emotional support, information about social service agencies, and psychological care.