Bulletin of the World Health Organization

Measuring the impact of intimate partner violence on the health of women in Victoria, Australia

T Vos, J Astbury, LS Piers, A Magnus, M Heenan, L Stanley, L Walker, & K Webster

ABSTRACT

OBJECTIVE

Using burden of disease methodology, estimate the health risks of intimate partner violence (IPV) among women in Victoria, Australia.

METHODS

We calculated population attributable fractions (from survey data on the prevalence of IPV and the relative risks of associated health problems in Australia) and determined health outcomes by applying them to disability-adjusted life year estimates for the relevant disease and injury categories for Victoria, Australia for 2001.

FINDINGS

For women of all ages IPV accounted for 2.9% (95% uncertainty interval 2.4–3.4%) of the total disease and injury burden. Among women 18–44 years of age, IPV was associated with 7.9% (95% uncertainty interval 6.4–9.5%) of the overall disease burden and was a larger risk to health than risk factors traditionally included in burden of disease studies, such as raised blood pressure, tobacco use and increased body weight. Poor mental health contributed 73% and substance abuse 22% to the disease burden attributed to IPV.

CONCLUSION

Our findings suggest that IPV constitutes a significant risk to women’s health. Mental health policy-makers and health workers treating common mental health problems need to be aware that IPV is an important risk factor. Future research should concentrate on evaluating effective interventions to prevent women being exposed to violence, and identifying the most appropriate mental health care for victims to reduce short- and long-term disability.

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