Study Highlights Long-Term Health Impacts of Abuse


According to a new study published in Nature Medicine, individuals subjected to intimate partner violence or childhood sexual abuse face significantly elevated risks of developing major health issues.

"This comprehensive study marks a significant step in understanding the profound health impacts of intimate partner violence (IPV) against women and childhood sexual abuse,” said Joht Singh Chandan, PhD, Clinical Associate Professor in Public Health at the University of Birmingham in England, the senior co-lead of the study. “Our findings reveal not only the alarming associations these forms of violence have with conditions like major depressive disorder, miscarriage, alcohol use disorders, and self-harm but also underscore the urgent need for robust preventive measures and support systems."

The study, a comprehensive global review and meta-analysis involving over 4,000 studies, with 229 meeting the criteria for inclusion, employed a burden of proof methodology to ascertain the strength of evidence linking these forms of violence to various health outcomes. While additional potential health outcomes were initially identified, such as maternal hypertensive disorders and smoking, the scarcity of evidence precluded their inclusion in the meta-analysis.

The results indicated a stark increase in the likelihood of major depressive disorder, maternal miscarriage, alcohol misuse, and self-harm among those who have experienced these forms of abuse. Notably, the study showed a 63 percent increased risk of major depressive disorders and a 35 percent increased risk of maternal miscarriage due to intimate partner violence. Childhood sexual abuse was moderately associated with a 45 percent increased risk of alcohol use and a 35 percent increase in self-harm.

The authors cautioned that the studies were observational and could not establish causality. They also acknowledged limitations due to limited studies exploring these relationships. However, they said the research underscores the extensive health effects of intimate partner violence and childhood sexual abuse, calling for further investigation to solidify the evidence base.

“Our research marks a pivotal shift in how we perceive the societal and health burdens of intimate IPV,” said researcher Nicholas Metheny, PhD, Assistant Professor in the School of Nursing and Health Studies at the University of Miami. “This new perspective is crucial in elevating IPV as a public health imperative in the global sphere, hopefully igniting both political and scientific momentum towards effective prevention and intervention strategies.”