Health Implications of Partner Violence against Women in Ghana

By Issahaku, Paul Alhassan | Violence and Victims, April 1, 2015 | Go to article overview

Health Implications of Partner Violence against Women in Ghana


Issahaku, Paul Alhassan, Violence and Victims


This article explores the health implications of partner violence against women in Ghana using data from northern Ghana. Face-to-face structured interviews were conducted with a sample of 443 women contacted at health facilities in the northern region. Results indicate that 7 out of 10 women have experienced intimate partner violence (IPV) within the past 12 months; 62% had experienced psychological violence, 29% had experienced physical violence, and 34% had experienced sexual violence. Participants reported health problems associated with violence, including injury, thoughts of suicide, sleep disruption, and fear of partner (FP). Logistic regression analyses showed that women who reported physical, psychological, and sexual violence, respectively, had 3.94 times, 10.50 times, and 2.21 times the odds of reporting thoughts of suicide, whereas the odds that women who reported physical, psychological, and sexual violence would report sleep disruption were 4.82 times higher, 4.44 times higher, and 2.50 times higher, respectively. However, only physical and psychological violence predicted the odds of FP. This study shows that IPV is a health risk factor among women in Ghana. Measures that should be designed to improve the health of women experiencing marital violence are suggested.

Keywords: intimate partner violence; violence and mental health; northern region; health assessment and care; women in Ghana

There is a growing scholarship on the health consequences of intimate partner violence (IPV). As a social determinant of health (Marmot & Wilkinson, 2006; Raphael, 2009), health researchers and health care professionals see violence as a key contributor to the public health burden, which requires a multidisciplinary approach to deal with (World Health Organization [WHO], 2002). Violence has been linked to physical injuries (Johnson, Ollus, & Nevala, 2008; Kishor & Johnson, 2004), sexual and reproductive health complications (Ellsberg, Jansen, Heise, Watts, & Garcia-Moreno, 2008; Kishor & Johnson, 2006; Parish, Wang, Laumann, Pan, & Luo, 2004), HIV infection (Dunkle et al., 2004; Fonck, Els, Kidula, Ndinya-Achola, & Timmerman, 2005), and mental health difficulties (Basile, Arias, Desai, & Thompson, 2004; Gao et al., 2010; Mechanic, Weaver, & Resick, 2008; Vizcarra et al., 2004). The definition of violence (see WHO, 2002) suggests it can result in injury or death or bring on psychological harm by inducing stress. Stress is "any real or interpreted threat to an individual's well-being that results in biological and behavioral responses" (Institute of Gender and Health [IGH], 2012). The IGH (2012) has noted that "chronic stress can lead to potential malfunctions in essentially every biological system" because "when stress hormones concentrations fall into ranges that are too high or too low, normal adaptation transforms into maladaptation" (p. 19). The theory suggests that violence-related stress can produce periods of maladaptation that are states of health and mental health difficulty in the life of an individual.

Existing knowledge on the link between violence and health comes largely from developed Western countries. There is presently very little scholarship on the subject from developing contexts such as Africa. It is important to build scholarship on violence and health in non-Western countries so as to produce a comprehensive cross-cultural understanding of the subject. This article makes such a contribution by analyzing data from the West African country of Ghana.

VIOLENCE AND HEALTH PROBLEMS AMONG WOMEN

Violence against women is a serious health risk factor (Basile et al., 2004; Dunkle et al., 2004; Ellsberg et al., 2008; Fonck et al., 2005; Gao et al., 2010; Johnson et al., 2008; Kishor & Johnson, 2006; Loseke & Kurtz, 2005; Mechanic et al., 2008; Parish et al., 2004; Vizcarra et al., 2004; WHO, 2002). Physical injuries including cuts, broken bones, fractures, and burns have been serious enough to warrant women's visit to the clinic (Johnson et al. …

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