Women abused by intimate partners suffer higher rates of a wide variety of doctor-diagnosed medical maladies compared to women who were never abused, shows a new study.
Compared with never-abused women, victims had an almost six-fold increase in clinically identified substance abuse, a more than three-fold increase in receiving a depression diagnosis, a three-fold increase in sexually transmitted diseases and a two-fold increase in lacerations.
Lead author Amy Bonomi, associate professor of human development and family science at Ohio State University, co-authored the study with researchers from the Group Health Research Institute and the University of Washington in Seattle.
Their research examined data from 3,568 randomly selected women patients at Group Health Cooperative, a health system in the Pacific Northwest. All women in the study consented to giving researchers confidential access to their medical records.
Women in the study were surveyed by telephone about whether they experienced any physical, sexual or psychological abuse from intimate partners, including husbands and boyfriends, within the past year.
Researchers then checked their medical records from the past year to see the diagnoses they had received from doctors in primary, specialty and emergency care settings.
The researchers then compared the diagnoses of the 242 abused women with the remaining women who had never been abused.
While other research has found a link between intimate partner violence and health, this is among the first major studies that has not relied on self-reports by women about their health status.
"We were able to go to the medical records and find out what abuse victims had been formally diagnosed with in the past year," Bonomi said.
"These women are not just saying they are depressed or have cuts and bruises. They are going to the doctor and having their problems diagnosed," she added.
The study has been published in the Oct. 12, 2009 issue of Archives of Internal Medicine.