Domestic Violence Poses as Much of a Health Risk to Women as Smoking

Three in ten women have been "punched, shoved, dragged, threatened with weapons, raped, or subjected to other violence" from former or current boyfriends/husbands, while half of all murdered women are killed by their partners, according to the first global, systematic study of violence against women.

The statistics—which show that violence against women is an epidemic affecting every region of the world—came from a concerted effort of dozens of researchers around the world and the WHO (World Health Organization) to measure gender-related violence using peer-reviewed literature and reports compiled by government agencies.

According to the WHO report, 42% of women who experienced violence were physically injured by their partners. But violence harms women in ways beyond injury. Violent partners may prevent women from visiting health clinics or from accessing medicine or contraception. Women who experienced violence from a partner are more likely to be infected with HIV or other sexually transmitted diseases, to have an abortion, to give birth to underweight and premature babies, and to attempt suicide. They are also more likely to use alcohol and are twice as likely to experience depression — factors which can be both cause of and be caused by a partner's violence. In addition, the authors point out, raised stress levels are implicated in a range of health problems, including chronic pain, diabetes, heart disease and gastrointestinal disorders.

According to Kristin Dunkle, a social epidemiologist at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia, these numbers suggest that violence against women should be considered a "mainstream" health risk, like smoking and alcohol.

Image via luxorphoto/Shutterstock

Violence against Women at Epidemic Proportions [Scientific American]