Exposure to intimate partner violence (IPV) has serious health outcomes for Australian women and their children, and its prevention is a recognised national priority.
Burden of disease studies measure the combined impact of living with illness and injury (non-fatal burden) and dying prematurely (fatal burden) on a population. This report estimated the amount of burden that could have been avoided if no adult women in Australia in 2011 had been exposed to IPV during their lifetime. This “attributable burden” is reported in terms of total, non-fatal and fatal burden.
This report extends results from the Australian Burden of Disease Study 2011 (ABDS 2011) to produce detailed estimates of the health burden due to exposure to IPV that are specific to Australian women in 2011. Of note, this report also includes estimates of attributable burden using a broader definition of IPV than used in the ABDS 2011, one that includes non-cohabiting partners as well as partner emotional abuse.
Key results for national estimates of burden
Overall, it was estimated that 1.4% of the disease burden experienced by women aged 18 years and over in 2011 was attributable to physical/sexual IPV by a current or previous cohabiting partner. Anxiety disorders made up the greatest proportion of this attributable burden (35%), followed by depressive disorders (32%) and suicide & self-inflicted injuries (19%) (Figure 5.1). More than one-quarter (27%) of this burden was fatal (Figure 5.2). Physical/sexual IPV was responsible for almost half (45%) of the total burden due to homicide & violence among adult women in 2011 (Figure 5.3). When the definition of IPV was broadened to include physical/sexual IPV by non-cohabiting partners, it was estimated that 2% of the burden experienced by Australian adult women could have been avoided if no exposure to IPV occurred. When emotional abuse was also considered, it was estimated that 2.2% of all burden experienced by adult women was due to IPV (Table 5.5) and could have been avoided if no exposure to IPV occurred.
The burden of IPV among Indigenous women
Using the broader definition of IPV (cohabiting and noncohabiting), the rate of burden attributable to physical/sexual IPV was estimated to be five times greater among Indigenous women than non-Indigenous women in 2011 once the effects of age were removed (Table 5.7, Figure 5.11). In total, it was estimated that this type of IPV was responsible for 6.4% of overall burden among Indigenous women. A larger proportion of this burden was fatal for Indigenous (34%) compared to non-Indigenous (24%) women.
Little change in the rate of burden between 2003 and 2011
There was little change in age-standardised rates of burden attributable to IPV between 2003 and 2011 (there was an increase from 4.4 to 4.9 DALY per 1000 adult women). This was mostly because there was little change in the burden of many of the diseases linked to IPV (particularly anxiety and depressive disorders), and because the rate of exposure to IPV was fairly stable across these two time points based on available evidence.
The Examination of the Burden of Disease study was released in two reports. The first provides technical information about the methodology as well as detailed estimates of the health burden due to exposure to IPV (see above). The second report focuses on two populations that experience the highest health impacts: women of reproductive age (18-44 years) and Indigenous women - A preventable burden: Measuring and addressing the prevalence and health impacts of intimate partner violence in Australian women: Key findings and future directions