The researchers then looked at the women's health care costs through Group Health from 1992 through 2002. In order to make sure that it was the abuse that was driving the cost differences between abused and non-abused women, the study took into account a wide variety of factors that may also be related, including the women's age, race and ethnicity, education and income, marital and employment status, among other influences.
Of those who reported abuse, about one-quarter said their abuse was "extremely severe," while about 39 percent said their abuse was "not severe" or "slightly severe."
Overall, abused women's health care costs were $585 greater per year than non-abused women during the period of abuse. After the abuse ended, health costs were $1,231 higher in the first year, $1,204 higher the second year, and $444 higher the third year. By the fourth year after abuse, health care costs were similar to that of other women.
Bonomi said the researchers don't have data to explain why health care costs are actually higher for the first two years after abuse ends than they were during the years of abuse. However, she believes she has one possible explanation.
"Women may not be accessing health care services that they should be while they are with an abusive partner. They may fear retaliation, particularly if they are in a controlling relationship."
In addition, women may be more likely to seek mental health services to help them cope once they are free from the abusive relationship.
If anything, Bonomi said the study may underestimate the extra health care costs borne by victims of domestic abuse. Some victims participating in the study may not have admitted to being abused, so were not included among the abuse victims.
Also, the study counts all types of abuse the same from severe physical and sexual abuse to controlling behavior that
|Contact: Amy Bonomi|
Ohio State University