Violence against women is significantly associated with mood, anxiety, and substance use disorders throughout the victim's life-time, according to a report.
Moreover, the relationship appears to be dosely related with higher rates of mental disorders seen in women who have been exposed to the most types of violence. In particular, women who have experienced three or four types of gender-based violence show a nearly 90% prevalence of mental disorders, while those who have never experienced it show only a 28% prevalence, said Susan Rees, Ph.D., of Australia's University of New South Wales School of Psychiatry and the Center for Population Mental Health Research, Sydney, and her associates.
Four types of violence typically perpetrated against women (physical beating by an intimate partner, rape, other forms of sexual assault, and stalking) are collectively known as gender-based violence. Evidence that all of these are associated with mental disorders has been increasing. Dr. Rees and her colleagues studied the issue using data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics' National Mental Health and Well-Being Survey.
The confidential survey, which included a representative sample of 4,451 Australian women aged 18-65 years, asked subjects whether they had ever been diagnosed as having any of four broad types of mental disorders: anxiety disorders (panic disorder, agoraphobia, social phobia, generalized anxiety disorder, or obsessive-compulsive disorder); mood disorders (major depressive episode, dysthymia, or bipolar affective disorder); substance use disorders; or posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
The survey also asked specifically about the four forms of gender-based violence. The most common type of gender-based violence was sexual assault, which was reported by 14.7% of the study subjects. This was followed by stalking (reported by 10%), rape (reported by 8.1%), and physical violence by an intimate partner (reported by 7.8%).
In the entire study population, the lifetime prevalence of any mental disorder was 37.8%. The overall prevalence of anxiety disorders was 24.6%; of mood disorders, 18.3%; of substance use disorders, 13.9%; and of PTSD, 9.8%.
These rates were significantly higher in the 1,218 women who reported experiencing at least one type of gender-based violence.
The prevalence of any mental disorder was 57.3% for women who had experienced one form of gender-based violence, and 89.4% for those who experienced three or four types. In comparison, women who were never exposed to gender-based violence had only a 28% prevalence of mental disorders, the investigators said (JAMA 2011;306:513-21).