The current issue of The Lancet includes a report on the World Health Organization’s multinational investigations of intimate partner violence affecting women ages 15-49 in 10 countries (Bangladesh, Brazil, Ethiopia, Japan, Namibia, Peru, Samoa, Serbia and Montenegro, Thailand, and the United Republic of Tanzania) from 2000-2003. The women reported on their general health status, specific symptoms, mental health, and their lifetime experience of sexual and physical violence if they had ever been partnered.
The authors note that among the nearly 20,000 women surveyed who had ever had partners, 15-71% (rates varied by location) reported that they had experienced physical and/or sexual violence at some point in their lives by a current or former partner. At most locations in the study, women who had experienced intimate partner violence were significantly more likely to report poor/very poor general health and higher rates of specific symptoms such as trouble walking, pain, and memory loss. They were also more likely to have thought about ending their lives, or to have attempted to do so.
A commentary associated with the piece notes that it’s difficult, with such a large and varied population, to account for varying perceptions and reporting of both lifetime violence and health status, and the difficulties of associating the two. The author also notes this item from Human Rights Watch, suggesting that war-related violence against women and girls may have increased in recent years in Iraq, although the nation was not part of the WHO study.
In 2005, the World Health Organization released a report on the preliminary findings of the study, which is freely available online.