Victims who suffer violence at the hands of a spouse, boyfriend or girlfriend, or other intimate partner aren’t only brutalized physically; they also suffer disproportionately higher rates of mental health distress, according to a new policy brief from the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research.
Using data from the 2009 California Health Interview Survey (CHIS), researchers found that of the 3.5 million Californians who reported ever having been the victim of intimate partner violence (IPV), more than half a million — 594,000 — said they experienced recent symptoms of “serious psychological distress,” which includes the most serious kinds of diagnosable mental health disorders, such as anxiety and depression. Adult victims of IPV were more than three times as likely as unexposed adults to report serious psychological distress in the past year.
Among the findings:
Women at risk: Women were more than twice as likely as men to have been the victim of IPV (20.5 percent vs. 9.1 percent), with almost 2.5 million women having experienced adult IPV.
Alcohol, drugs and violence: Almost half of all IPV victims (47.6 percent) said that their partner appeared to be drinking alcohol or using drugs during the most recent violent incident.
Trying to cope: Nearly one in three adults (33.1 percent) who reported being an adult IPV victim said they needed help for a mental or emotional problem or an alcohol or other drug problem. In contrast, just 12.6 percent of non-victims reported needing similar help.
Read an interview with the study’s lead author, Elaine Zahnd.