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Male Partner Violence Hurts Women's Health Worldwide

WHO study finds aftereffects reverberate long after the incidents

THURSDAY, April 3 (HealthDay News) -- Women who are victims of male partner violence suffer a wide range of physical and mental health problems, says a World Health Organization study that included 25,000 women in 11 countries.

The women, aged 15 to 49, came from Bangladesh, Brazil, Ethiopia, Japan, Namibia, Peru, Samoa, Serbia and Montenegro, Thailand, and the United Republic of Tanzania. The study found that having ever experienced physical or sexual partner violence was associated with poor health overall, and with specific health problems in the four weeks prior to being interviewed: pain, memory loss, dizziness, vaginal discharge and difficulty walking or doing daily activities.

In addition, women who'd experienced partner violence at least once in their lives had more emotional distress, or suicidal thoughts or attempts, than women who'd never suffered abuse by a male partner.

Differences in age, education or marital status did not seem to be factors in the association between partner violence and these physical and mental health problems in women.

The study findings, published in this week's issue of The Lancet, suggest that the effects of this kind of violence linger long after the actual violence has ended, the researchers said.

"In addition to being a breach of human rights, the high prevalence of partner violence and its associations with poor health -- including implied costs in terms of health expenditures and human suffering -- highlight the urgent need to address partner violence in national and global health-sector policies and programs," the study authors concluded.

In an accompanying commentary, Riyadh K. Lafta, of the Mustansiriya Medical School in Baghdad, Iraq, stated: "Accurate and comparable data on violence against women are needed to strengthen advocacy efforts, help policy makers understand the problem, and guide design of preventive interventions."

However, efforts to collect data are hampered by several factors including: the influence of social and cultural views in determining what constitutes violence; the settings of interviews, the type of target population, and the way questions are asked, Lafta noted.

More information

The American Bar Association offers a domestic violence safety plan.

-- Robert Preidt

SOURCE: The Lancet, news release, April 4, 2008

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