Impact of Domestic Abuse on Health

Lighthouse by Carole May

Lighthouse by Carole May

Physical abuse is no longer just about bruises and broken bones. Emotional abuse is about more than hurt feelings.

The long-term health impacts of domestic violence (DV) are being characterized as“epidemic” and a “national scourge” by Robert S. Thompson, MD, because DV affects between 25% and 54% of women in their adult lifetimes, and a disproportionate number of these women experienced physical or sexual abuse as a child. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 1,200 women are killed (three each day) and 2 million are injured each year from intimate partner violence (IPV). This impacts 15.5 million children:

We know that too many are affected by it and its consequences are too serious not to do more about it. The time has come to take action, intervene, and, of course, evaluate those interventions.

A cause of major morbidity and mortality, which is fourfold more common than breast cancer, cannot be ignored. [emphasis added]

So, why is breast cancer getting so much funding and research? Former First Lady Betty Ford broke down the wall of silence. Organizations like the Susan G. Komen Foundation lobbied Congress and corporations. Breast cancer survivors are leveraging their professional expertise to make a difference.

They have created a map we can follow.

A Group Health study discovered 44% of their members had experienced intimate partner violence (IPV is the medical term for domestic violence/abuse) during their lifetimes. This manifests as severe depression, poor or fair health, and lower social functioning. “Women’s health was adversely affected by the proximity, type, and duration of IPV exposure” the study concluded.

Those who have experienced or witnessed child abuse have a higher incidence of domestic violence, poor mental health, alcoholism, tobacco and drug abuse, obesity, diabetes, cancer, heart disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, unintended pregnancy, sexually transmitted disease, depression, and suicide attempts as adults.

Prolonged exposure to abuse causes post-traumatic stress disorder(PTSD) which increases a person’s risk for heart attacks and autoimmune diseases such as arthritis and psoriasis as well as chronic pain, regulation of the nervous, endocrine, and other organ systems. Anger, depression, and the adrenaline rush associated with exposure to trauma wear down the cardiovascular system.

The number of women who have experienced child abuse is nearly three times greater than those who will develop breast cancer. IPV kills four times more adult women than breast cancer.  IPV survivors are at greater risk for strokes (80%), heart disease (70%), asthma (60%), and alcohol abuse (70%). Yet, there is very little health screening for abuse. The federal government provides only limited funds for research on prevention and intervention.

On April 16, 2009, the AMA’s National Advisory Council on Violence and Abuse briefed Members of Congress and their staffs on the long-term impact to health care costs of physical, sexual and psychological violence. They estimate that at least 20-40% of the population has experienced abuse. They predict this adds from $333 to $750 billion (17%-37.5%) to health care costs each year.

The Nursing Network on Violence Against Women, the Family Violence Prevention Fund, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention were among the co-sponsors of this event.

Please visit the Schweitzer Fellows blog for more amazing research and work in this area.  Also, the Boston Globe apparently reported on a study on the long-term psychological impacts on children who witness abuse.

Note:  I have provided numerous links to guide you to the wealth of research and statistics you might want to site to support proposals or grant requests.  These will lead you to a myriad of other sources including the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.


See also:

Cost of Intimate Partner Violence Against Women in the United States [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention or CDC]

A Systemic Review of Trauma-Focused Interventions for Domestic Violence Survivors [National Center on Domestic Violence, Trauma & Mental Health]

Serious Health Consequences to Children Witnessing Domestic Violence by Barry Goldstein, JD

Rights for Mothers post “Abuse Has Prolonged Effect on Mothers


5 responses to “Impact of Domestic Abuse on Health

  1. Pingback: Windmills of Our Minds: Faith or Fear? « Anne Caroline Drake·

  2. Pingback: Dealing with gout pain·

  3. Hi Anne, this is Sherri formerly Sherri Peak, your blog and writings are a very valuable resource for victims and others, thank you! Your work, articles and knowledge is impressive and I will be directing folks of whom I do survivor support/training to your site for knowledge, points of reference, inspiration. It’s always a relief when someone like you ‘gets it’ and is going the extra mile to help awareness!! My daily battle to overcome the damages caused by DV and stalking continues and when information such as yours is found while doing research on the internet I am always grateful for people like you. This morning I found your site helpful again while researching the impact on my health – 6 months ago I was diagnosed with an autoimmune arthritis disorder, it is yet one more hurdle to scale in this marathon of being a survivor and unfortunately, this chapter will not have closure – physical disabilities like mine are forever. Now, I must figure out how to live with a different kind of suffering and the economic punishment health is in such decline that I will be soon forced to live on SSI. I want to support myself and my children, it’s my one source of independence, now that has been taken from me too. It’s really not fair to me or our tax payers. And it’s the next topic I plan to tackle and highlight with regards to victim advocacy – the impact of abuse goes much farther and deeper than what happens in the legal system. Thank you so much for being a part of the solution and standing up and saying things that need to be heard!!! Peace and blessings, Sherri

  4. Pingback: Doris Buffett: Giving It All Away (Book Review + More) | Anne Caroline Drake·

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s