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Abuse of the Mind

Psychological abuse as harmful to health as physical abuse

THURSDAY, Oct. 24, 2002 (HealthDayNews) -- Psychological abuse by an intimate partner can be as dangerous as sexual or physical abuse in terms of putting victims at risk for long-term physical and mental health problems.

That's the claim of a study in the November issue of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.

The study examined data from the National Violence Against Women Survey, which included 16,000 American adults aged 18 to 65. An intimate partner includes a male or female current or former spouse or a cohabitating intimate partner.

About 29 percent of the 6,790 female and 23 percent of the 7,122 male survey respondents reported at least one of the three forms of abuse from an intimate partner at some point in their lives.

The respondents reported psychological abuse more often than either physical or sexual abuse. It accounted for more than half the abuse reported by women and more than 75 percent of the abuse reported by men.

When they analyzed the link between health and abuse by an intimate partner, the researchers found significant mental and physical health consequences for victims of physical and psychological abuse.

Male and female victims of either form of abuse were more likely than people who didn't suffer abuse to develop chronic physical or mental illness. And they were more prone to poor general health, depression, injury, and drug and alcohol abuse, the study said.

The findings support the growing body of research suggesting that health-screening programs must include screening for physical, sexual and psychological abuse, says study lead author Ann L. Coker, of the University of Texas School of Public Health.

She says if abuse by an intimate partner can be identified early, doctors can take steps to reduce the impact on a victim's mental and physical health.

More information

The National Crime Prevention Council has more information on domestic violence.

SOURCE: American Journal of Preventive Medicine, news release, Oct. 24, 2002
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