Magazine article Clinical Psychiatry News

Abuse Reported by 11% of Postmenopausal Women: Study Finds That Verbal Abuse Has Greater Impact on Health and Mental Health Than Physical Abuse

Magazine article Clinical Psychiatry News

Abuse Reported by 11% of Postmenopausal Women: Study Finds That Verbal Abuse Has Greater Impact on Health and Mental Health Than Physical Abuse

Article excerpt

NEW ORLEANS -- Slightly more than 11% of almost 92,000 postmenopausal women reported they had been verbally and/or physically abused in the previous year by a family member or close friend, an incidence much higher than expected, Charles P. Mouton, M.D., said at the annual conference of the Society of Teachers of Family Medicine.

Among women who reported no abuse at baseline, an additional 5% reported such maltreatment by a 3-year follow-up, another surprising finding from this offshoot study of the Women's Health Initiative (WHI).

"I had a 'golden years' picture of older women. I figured they had been married for a long time and had worked out these issues by this point. I did not anticipate finding issues of domestic violence," said Dr. Mouton.

Most research on verbal and/or physical abuse has been done in functionally dependent women, frail elders, or women of childbearing age. However, participants in the ongoing WHI are healthy and functionally independent volunteers. This is the first study to estimate the incidence of abuse in a large sample of postmenopausal women, said Dr. Mouton, chair of the department of community health and family practice at Howard University in Washington.

The WHI surveyed women about a wide range of health issues, including questions about verbal and/ or physical abuse. However, Dr. Mouton and his associates had no protocol for management or referral of women who replied that they had been abused. A literature search produced no answers for women in this age group (50-79 years old). "That's how this whole study got going," he explained.

The group's findings have been published (Am. J. Public Health 2004;94:605-12).

The investigators assessed self-reported verbal and/or physical abuse from the responses of 91,749 women enrolled in the observational arm of the WHI. Most respondents were non-Hispanic white (83%), married (65%), and well educated (with 40% having at least a college degree).

A total of 10,199 women (11%) said they were abused in the 12 months before baseline. Specifically, abuse was physical for 2%, verbal and physical for 9%, and verbal only for 89%. Risk factors for abuse included age younger than 59 years, a nonwhite race or ethnicity, having less than a high school education, being separated or divorced, past or current smoking, and drinking more than one drink per week.

In addition to non-Hispanic white women, the study population was 8. …

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