Up to one quarter of married and partnered women responding to a recent survey said they were victims of sexual, psychological or physical abuse by their partners. This is according to a study published in the July 2009 issue of Journal of Advanced Nursing.
The research team who examined the 2,746 responses to the survey discovered an unmistakable link between abuse and overall poor health. As a result, the researchers are asking that new policies be formed to aid primary health care nurses combat the issue in a more holistic manner.
Researchers mailed questionnaires to 7, 523 women in Iceland whose addresses were chosen on a random basis. Those surveyed were between the ages of 19 and 67 and the respondents included 1,974 married women, and 772 partnered women, representing 6.5% of the total population of Iceland.
Lead researcher Professor Erla Kolbrun Svavarsdottir of the Faculty of Nursing at the University of Iceland commented that, “The data on intimate partner abuse was collected separately from married and cohabiting women because in Iceland women who are married tend to be older and have been in their marital relationship for longer than women who are living with their partner.”
Among the findings of the study:
*18.2% of respondents had undergone psychological abuse, 3.3 had suffered physical abuse, and another 1.3 had experienced sexual abuse.
*Over 11% reported feeling frightened by their partner’s words or actions while over a third (34%) reported tense communication between them and a partner.
*7% of the married respondents and 9% of the partnered women were depressed with 4% suffering from eating disorders.
*11% of the married women and 4% of the partnered women reported they had fibromyalgia, which has been linked to stress and which manifests through widespread pain, sleep disturbances, and fatigue.
*The married women were on average 47 years of age, as compared to the partnered women who averaged 35 years of age. Marriages lasted on average a total of 26 years, while partnered women’s relationships lasted, on average, around 10 years.
*87% of the married women and 88% of the partnered women were employed at least part-time and had up to 3 children.
*15% of the physical health issues suffered by the respondents were linked to alcohol abuse, depression, and sleep disturbance.
*49% of the psychological health issues were linked to marital status and abuse, smoking, eating disorders, depression, and sleep disturbance.
Co-author Dr. Brynja Orlysgsdottir concludes, “Our research clearly shows that intimate partner abuse can have a number of physical and psychological side effects and it is important that healthcare professionals are aware of these when they are treating patients. We believe that public health policy has a key role to play in identifying victims of intimate partner abuse and supporting nurses so that they can offer appropriate interventions in primary healthcare settings.”