Women with a severe mental health-related disability are nearly four times more likely to have been a victim of intimate partner violence than those without a disability, according to a new study.

“Our study suggests that women whose daily activities were limited by a psychological, emotional, or mental health condition may be especially vulnerable to being victimized,” said Janice Du Mont, Ed.D.,the study’s lead author and a scientist at Women’s College Research Institute.

“What’s more, we found that the more severe the mental health-related disability, the higher the prevalence of intimate partner violence.”

For the study, the researchers surveyed 6,851 women who reported contact with a current or former partner in the previous five years and found:

  • Nearly 45 percent of women with a severe mental health-related disability reported experiencing discrimination in the previous five years, compared to 15 percent of women without a disability;
  • More women with a severe mental health-related disability reported lower levels of trust toward family, neighbors, and people from work or school, and a weaker sense of belonging to their community;
  • More women living with severe daily activity limitations reported lower household incomes;
  • Rates of all types of violence — emotional, financial, physical, and/or sexual — were higher among women with both severe and moderate mental health disabilities.

“For women with a mental health-related disability, the consequences of experiencing discrimination can be devastating,” said Du Mont. “It may lead to social isolation and put these women at greater risk for harmful or abusive relationships, discouraging them from seeking help from their abusive relationship and their mental health problems.”

The findings suggest that prevention and intervention activities may need to “better target women with mental health disabilities, to help alleviate the suffering and negative impact of partner abuse,” said Du Mont.

The study was published in the journal BioMed Central Public Health.

Source: Women’s College Hospital