Intimate partner violence and women's physical and mental health in the WHO multi-country study on women's health and domestic violence: an observational study

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date



The Lancet








Background: This article summarises findings from ten countries from the WHO multi-country study on women's health and domestic violence against women. Methods: Standardised population-based surveys were done between 2000 and 2003. Women aged 15-49 years were interviewed about their experiences of physically and sexually violent acts by a current or former intimate male partner, and about selected symptoms associated with physical and mental health. The women reporting physical violence by a partner were asked about injuries that resulted from this type of violence. Findings: 24 097 women completed interviews. Pooled analysis of all sites found significant associations between lifetime experiences of partner violence and self-reported poor health (odds ratio 1·6 [95% CI 1·5-1·8]), and with specific health problems in the previous 4 weeks: difficulty walking (1·6 [1·5-1·8]), difficulty with daily activities (1·6 [1·5-1·8]), pain (1·6 [1·5-1·7]), memory loss (1·8 [1·6-2·0]), dizziness (1·7 [1·6-1·8]), and vaginal discharge (1·8 [1·7-2·0]). For all settings combined, women who reported partner violence at least once in their life reported significantly more emotional distress, suicidal thoughts (2·9 [2·7-3·2]), and suicidal attempts (3·8 [3·3-4·5]), than non-abused women. These significant associations were maintained in almost all of the sites. Between 19% and 55% of women who had ever been physically abused by their partner were ever injured. Interpretation: In addition to being a breach of human rights, intimate partner violence is associated with serious public-health consequences that should be addressed in national and global health policies and programmes. Funding: WHO; Governments of the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, and UK; Rockefeller Foundation; Urban Primary Health Care project of the Government of Bangladesh; Swedish Agency for Research Cooperation with Developing Countries (SAREC/Sida); United Nations Fund for Population Activities (UNFPA); and Trocaire. © 2008 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.