To determine the incidence and type of wife abuse in relation to mental health status, a survey was undertaken in a community-based sample of wives. The incidence rate of physical abuse was 10.6%, psychological abuse 13.1%. Nearly all physically abused wives were psychologically abused. Wives at highest risk of abuse were those: 1) separated from their husbands in the previous year; 2) aged 18-44 years; 3) in relatively new relationships; 4) whose husbands were unemployed, in school or working part-time. Physically and psychologically abused wives had more somatic complaints, higher levels of anxiety and insomnia, greater social dysfunction and more symptoms of depression than non-abused wives. Alcohol dependency was associated with abuse; 16.3% of physically abused and 11.3% of psychologically abused wives were alcohol-dependent, compared to 2.4% of non-abused wives.