A new Australian study finds that women who experience gender-based violence such as rape, sexual assault, intimate partner violence and stalking are at an increased risk to develop mental health disorders in their lifetimes.

Women were found to be at risk for mental illness, disability, substance abuse, and suicidal tendencies.

Researchers surveyed 4,451 women aged 16 to 85 and discovered 15 percent of Australian women reported sexual assault, while eight percent reported being raped. About eight percent reported physical intimate partner violence and 10 percent stalking.

The study is the most comprehensive ever undertaken of gender-based violence in a nationally representative sample of women.

Investigators discovered the four most common types of gender-based violence are strongly associated with a wide range of problems for women including more severe current mental disorder, higher rates of three or more lifetime mental disorders, physical disability, mental disability, impaired quality of life, and overall disability.

Findings are published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA).

“It was the strength of these associations that was most shocking,” said study leader Susan Rees, Ph.D. “There is an overwhelming link between gender violence and key indicators of women’s mental health, well-being and risk of suicide attempts.”

Rees said that for women exposed to two types of gender-based violence, the lifetime rate of mental disorder was 69 percent and for three or more types of gender-based violence, it was 89.4 percent.

‚ÄúThis compares with a rate of 28 percent for women who have not experienced violence. The link with gender-based violence was particularly strong for posttraumatic stress disorder,” she said.

“This research highlights the need to ensure that expert mental health care is a central component of gender-based violence programs. Similarly, psychiatric services need to be better equipped to assist women with mental health disorders who have experienced such violence,” Rees said.

Source: University of New South Wales