Partner violence and women’s health
Intimate-partner violence and physical health
Although it is a subjective measure, self-reported health is considered to be predictive of illness in a population-based survey (17,18). The WHO Study asked respondents whether they considered their general health to be excellent, good, fair, poor, or very poor. Respondents were further asked for each item on a list of health problems whether they had experienced the problem during the 4 weeks prior to the interview and how serious it was.
In the majority of settings (except Japan, Samoa, and urban United Republic of Tanzania), women who had ever experienced physical or sexual partner violence, or both, were significantly more likely to report poor or very poor health than women who had never experienced partner violence. Ever-abused women were also more likely to have had problems with: walking and carrying out daily activities, pain, memory loss, dizziness, and vaginal discharge in the 4 weeks prior to the interview. It is particularly noteworthy that recent experiences of ill-health were associated with lifetime experiences of violence. This suggests that the physical effects of violence may last long after the actual violence has ended, or that cumulative abuse affects health most strongly.
"I suffered for a long time and swallowed all my pain. That’s why I am constantly visiting doctors and using medicines. No one should do this."
-Woman interviewed in Serbia and Montenegro
In the settings where no significant association between violence and ill-health was found, the findings may have been affected by low reporting of symptoms of ill-health. For example, less than 3% of non-abused women in Ethiopia, Japan, Namibia, Samoa, and the urban site in the United Republic of Tanzania reported poor health. Differences among settings were undoubtedly also influenced by cultural variations in how health and ill-health are perceived.