On August 30, the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research released a new policy brief, which reported that victims who suffer violence at the hands of a spouse, boyfriend or girlfriend, or other intimate partner are not only brutalized physically but also suffer disproportionately higher rates of mental health distress. The researchers used data from the 2009 California Health Interview Survey (CHIS); they found that of the 3.5 million Californians who reported ever having been the victim of intimate partner violence (IPV), 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. Victims of IPV were also far more likely than non-victims to seek mental healthcare and to engage in coping strategies like binge drinking.
Among the findings:
- Women at risk: Women were more than twice as likely as men to have been the victim of IPV (20.5% vs. 9.1%), with almost 2.5 million women having experienced adult IPV. Although victims of both sexes (female: 17.5%; male (15.3%) of adult IPV were more likely than non-victims to report serious psychological distress during the past year, larger numbers of female victims (428,000) were affected by serious psychological distress than male victims (166,000), since women make up the majority of IPV cases.
- Alcohol, drugs and violence: 47.6% said that their partner appeared to be drinking alcohol or using drugs during the most recent violent incident.
- Trying to cope: 33.1% of those 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% of non-victims reported needing similar help. Adult IPV victims were much more likely (23.9%) than non-victims (9.5%) to report seeing their primary care physician, a psychiatrist, a social worker, or a counselor in the past year for problems with their psychological or emotional health and/or their use of alcohol or other drugs. More than half of all IPV victims subjected to a recent IPV incident (52.4%) reported engaging in binge drinking over the past year, a significantly higher rate than those who had not experienced a recent IPV incident (35.1%). Furthermore, 7% of recent IPV victims reported binge drinking on a daily to weekly basis, a higher level than those who were never exposed to IPV (4.5%).
The study authors recommended that health screening for IPV, for emotional health and for substance use problems among patients and clients, regardless of gender, should be expanded, standardized and made routine.
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