Intimate partner violence contributes highest health risk to women aged 18 to 44

Monday, 31st October 2016

Intimate partner violence is prevalent, affecting one in three Australian women since the age of 15, including physical, sexual and emotional abuse, finds a national study connecting this violence to the health burden experienced by women. Intimate partner violence also is the greatest contributor to the health gap between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women and non-Indigenous women in child-bearing years, aged 18 to 44.

New research published by Australia’s National Research Organisation for Women’s Safety (ANROWS) shows that intimate partner violence has serious impacts for women’s health, affecting mental health, problems during pregnancy and birth, alcohol use disorders, suicide and homicide.

The study calculates the “burden of disease,” an internationally recognised method to measure the impact of injuries and illnesses as well as comparing risk factors. The research finds that intimate partner violence contributes an estimated 5.1% to the disease burden in Australian women aged 18-44 years, which is higher than any other risk factor in the study, including tobacco use, high cholesterol or use of illicit drugs.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women in these child-bearing years experience a health risk 6.3 times higher than non-Indigenous women due to intimate partner violence. Three in five Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women have experienced intimate partner violence since the age of 15, contributing to 10.9% of their disease burden.

For women of all age groups above 18 years, intimate partner violence remains in the top 10 health risks, contributing to 2.2% of the burden of disease.

Amongst all women over 18, intimate partner violence is the seventh largest risk factor when using the broadest definition of intimate partner violence (including physical and sexual violence as well emotional abuse in cohabiting relationships).  Intimate partner violence is the ninth if considering only physical and sexual violence in live-in relationships. 

Drawing on research conducted by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare commissioned by ANROWS, the study shows that there has been no decrease in the burden of disease of intimate partner violence in recent years. 

There has been notable improvement in the responses to the women and children affected by violence, however, these services still need further resources. Moreover, it is paramount to increase support for preventative measures to stop violence before it occurs.

Reducing the burden of disease gap between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women and non-Indigenous women is vital to our nation’s future. This can only be achieved through policy and practitioner collaboration with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities. This includes addressing the socio-economic marginalisation and related disadvantages impacting on the health risks associated with intimate partner violence.

The study will be launched in Canberra on 1 November by the World Health Organization’s leading expert on violence against women, Dr Claudia Garcia Moreno.

Technical detail about the study’s methodology and findings can be found on the ANROWS website.

About ANROWS

ANROWS is a not-for-profit organisation established as an initiative of The National Plan to Reduce Violence against Women and their Children 2010-2022, to deliver relevant and translatable research evidence to inform policy and practice.

Information for media

Heather Nancarrow, CEO of ANROWS is available for media interviews.  To arrange an interview please contact ANROWS on 8374 4000.