Study shows people with mental disorders more likely to have experienced domestic violence

15 January 2013

A study, led by Professor Louise Howard, CGMH staff member and IoP’s Head of the Section of Women's Mental Health, shows that men and women with mental health disorders, across all diagnoses, are more likely to have experienced domestic violence than the general population. Previous studies into the link between domestic violence and mental health problems have mainly focused on depression, but this is the first study to look at a wide range of mental health problems in both male and female victims.

In this study, funded by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) and published in PLOS ONE, researchers reviewed data from 41 studies worldwide. 

Compared to women without mental health problems, women with depressive disorders were around 2 and a ½ times more likely to have experienced domestic violence over their adult lifetime (prevalence estimate 45.8%); women with anxiety disorders were over 3 and a ½ times more likely (prevalence estimate 27.6%); and women with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) were around 7 times more likely (prevalence estimate 61.0%).

Women with other disorders including obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), eating disorders, common mental health problems, schizophrenia and bipolar disorder were also at an increased risk of domestic violence compared to women without mental health problems. Men with all types of mental disorders were also at an increased risk of domestic violence. However, prevalence estimates for men were lower than those for women, indicating that it is less common for men to be victims of repeated severe domestic violence. 

Professor Louise Howard says: “In this study, we found that both men and women with mental health problems are at an increased risk of domestic violence. The evidence suggests that there are two things happening: domestic violence can often lead to victims developing mental health problems, and people with mental health problems are more likely to experience domestic violence.” She concludes: “Mental health professionals need to be aware of the link between domestic violence and mental health problems, and ensure that their patients are safe from domestic violence and are treated for the mental health impact of such abuse.”

Disclaimer: This study presents independent research funded by the NIHR under its Programme Grants for Applied Research programme (Reference Number: RP-PG-0108-10084). The views expressed in this release are those of the author(s) and are not necessarily those of the NHS, the NIHR or the Department of Health.

Click here to access the paper