Physical and sexual intimate partner violence and reported serious psychological distress in the 2007 BRFSS

Int J Public Health. 2009 Jun;54 Suppl 1:37-42. doi: 10.1007/s00038-009-0005-2.


Objectives: We sought to determine the relationship between intimate partner violence (IPV) and serious psychological distress (SPD) as measured by the Kessler-6 (K6) among U.S. adults. We used data from the 2007 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS) to determine whether individuals who reported multiple forms of IPV also reported higher prevalences of SPD compared with those who reported: 1) no physical or sexual IPV; 2) physical or sexual IPV only; and 3) threatened or attempted physical IPV. We also obtained adjusted prevalences for lifetime physical or sexual IPV.

Methods: We analyzed responses from three states that administered both the IPV and the K6 optional modules of the BRFSS in 2007. Respondents (5,985 men; 9,335 women) were categorized as experiencing threatened or attempted physical violence, physical violence, sexual violence, or both physical and sexual violence. We calculated lifetime IPV prevalence by demographic characteristics and performed adjusted and unadjusted logistic regressions of the relationship between level of IPV and SPD.

Results: 15.5 % of the sample reported some form of IPV. The prevalence of any IPV was almost twice as high in women (19.9 %) as in men (10.9 %). IPV was also associated with age, marital status, employment status, and income. Overall, the estimated prevalence of SPD was 2.9 % (95 % CI: 2.5-3.5). Among women, it was 2.1 % (95 % CI: 1.16-2.8) among those with no lifetime IPV and 15.4 % (95 % CI: 10.9-21.3) among those who reported both physical and sexual IPV.

Conclusions: IPV is a serious public health problem associated with multiple adverse health outcomes, including SPD. In our study, the odds of SPD increased when respondents experience multiple forms of IPV. Medical and mental health practitioners should consider assessing exposure to IPV when patients have signs or symptoms of SPD or other conditions that might be consistent with IPV. Similarly, practitioners should consider assessing for IPV among patients with SPD. States should consider obtaining population-based IPV prevalence via the BRFSS to better plan for the health needs of their residents.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System
  • Female
  • Hawaii / epidemiology
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mental Disorders / epidemiology*
  • Mental Disorders / etiology
  • Mental Disorders / psychology
  • Middle Aged
  • Nebraska / epidemiology
  • Sex Distribution
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • Spouse Abuse / psychology*
  • Spouse Abuse / statistics & numerical data
  • Stress, Psychological / epidemiology*
  • Stress, Psychological / psychology
  • Virginia / epidemiology
  • Young Adult