Survivors of domestic abuse at risk of serious mental health problems

By Lenore Rice

New research, undertaken and published by Birmingham University, indicates that women who experience domestic abuse are three times more likely to develop a mental health problem.

A new study from the British Journal of Psychiatry adds that they are also twice as likely to have already encountered some form of mental illness.

The elaborate study involved an initial group of 18,547 women who had informed their GP of their experiences of domestic violence. These women were followed up over a period of a number of years and compared with a group of more than 74,000 similarly aged women who reported having no experience of domestic abuse.

The purpose of the study was to greater understand the strength of the link between domestic abuse and mental health and illness. It is hoped that developing an understanding of this link will provide opportunities to improve the lives of women affected by domestic abuse and domestic violence.  

The report showed that from 1995-2017, nearly half of women who had went to the doctor with domestic abuse had an already diagnosed mental illness.

Moreover, the study states that survivors of domestic abuse were twice as likely to develop anxiety, and three times as likely to develop depression, bipolar disorder, and even schizophrenia.

The findings of the study have also raised concerns of a serious underreporting of domestic abuse. Official crime figures published by the Police Service of Northern Ireland state that around one in four women will experience some form of domestic abuse or domestic violence at some point in their lifetime.

Yet this study, which is based on the detailed records kept by GPs, found that fewer than one in 100 women were on record as being affected.

This in turn has raised calls for the police to do more to flag potential instances of domestic abuse to healthcare professionals, as well as calls for better mental health support for women with a domestic abuse background.

 

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