A new study has discovered that women who are victims of physical abuse inflicted by their intimate partners have increased health care costs, a pattern which continues long after the actual abuse ends.
"Along with all the physical and emotional pain it causes, domestic violence also comes with a substantial financial price," said Amy Bonomi, co-author of the study and associate professor of human development and family science at Ohio State University.
She claimed that the study is the largest to date to examine health care costs and utilization based on the timing and type of domestic violence that women suffer.
Co-authored with researchers from the Group Health Cooperative and the University of Washington in Seattle, the study examined data from 3,333 randomly selected women who belonged to Group Health, a health care system in the Pacific Northwest.
In the survey, the researchers asked the women about whether they experienced any physical or emotional abuse from intimate partners and if so, when it occurred.
Then, they studied patterns of health care use and costs by the women over an 11-year period, from 1992 through 2002.
"We were able to track health care costs for quite a long time, giving us a good picture of how much domestic violence is actually costing our health care system," said Bonomi.
It was found that women experiencing ongoing physical abuse had the highest health care costs-42 percent higher than non-abused women.
"It's likely that these women need more health care because they are seeking care for immediate injuries and associated health problems," said Bonomi.
And women, who had been physically abused within the last five years, but not currently, had 24 percent higher yearly health costs.
Abuse that occurred more than five years ago resulted in 19 percent higher costs.
Bonomi said that one striking finding was that all abused women, whether they experienced physical or psychological abuse, used significantly more mental health services than non-abused women.
Physically abused women used significantly more primary care, pharmacy, specialty care, laboratory and radiology services.
The study was published online this week in the journal Health Services Research.