Intimate-Partner Violence (IPV) has massive public health impact in Australia
A new report shows that IPV poses the greatest risk to health for women aged 18 to 44. The report also shows that indigenous women have it the worst.
A new national study published by Australia’s National Research Organisation for Women’s Safety (ANROWS) shows that intimate partner violence poses one of the highest health risks for all Australian women, and is the greatest contributor to health risk amongst women aged 18 to 44.
The report, entitled “A preventable burden: Measuring and addressing the prevalence and health impacts of intimate partner violence in Australian women: Key findings and future directions” shows that the contribution of IPV to the “burden of disease” is greater for women of child-bearing age than alcohol use, tobacco use, cholesterol, obesity and other diseases.
Similar in other high-income countries
The pattern found in Australia is, unfortunately, not uncommon in other high income nations, as identified by the World Health Organization. The study was commissioned by ANROWS and conducted by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) to contribute to evidence for implementation of Australia’s National Plan to Reduce Violence against Women and their Children (2010-2022).
- One in three Australian women have experienced physical, sexual and/or emotional abuse by an intimate partner.
- One in six women have experienced intimate partner violence when emotional abuse is excluded.
- Some groups, including Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander (Indigenous Australian) women experience higher rates of intimate partner violence.
- Disability and socio-economic marginalisation also increase risks of intimate partner violence.
- Women who are pregnant or who have children in their care are also especially vulnerable to intimate partner violence.
Calculating the Burden of Disease
What is burden of disease?
The burden of disease is accepted globally as a rigorous, best-practice methodology for measuring the health impact of injuries, illnesses and conditions (collectively referred to as “diseases” in this methodology), and making comparisons between them.
The burden of disease measures loss of health at a population level for a particular year, in this case 2011.
What is DALY?
The health loss calculation takes into account premature death and the severity and impact of non-fatal diseases to produce a “Disability-Adjusted Life Year” (DALY). The DALY is a single measure of years lost due to homicide or suicide and poor health associated with disability, chronic illness, mental health conditions, substance abuse, maternal and reproductive health disorders, and sexually transmitted infections.
The examination of the burden of disease of intimate partner violence involved a meta-analysis of 43 studies linking intimate partner violence to health issues. Data from these studies were extracted to calculate whether there was a strong or weak association between intimate partner violence and the seven most prominent diseases emerging from the analysis:
- Suicide and self-harm,
- Homicide and injuries,
- Alcohol-use disorder,
- Preterm and low birth weight complications and
- Early pregnancy loss.
Research shows that intimate partner violence makes a strong impact on health outcomes. This is because this violence is perpetrated over a period of time and the effects are cumulative.
Immediate health consequences
Some of the health consequences are immediate, such as physical injuries.
Long-term health consequences
Other health consequences of IPV develop over time, and they can be co-occurring years after the abuse ends, such as alcohol dependency and poor mental health.
The effects of intimate partner violence also have a profound compounding effect on health, by deepening existing inequalities, as is the case with Indigenous Australian women. Flow-on health risks extend to children who are exposed to violence.
In the ANROWS-AIHW study, intimate partner violence contributes 2.2% to the burden of disease of all women. To put this in context, the highest burden is 8.3% due to tobacco use and the second and third highest health burden is 5.1% each for being overweight or obese and physical inactivity. High cholesterol contributes less to the total burden of disease at 1.9 percent for all Australian women.