Academics at the University of Birmingham have identified a significant association between mental illness and domestic abuse in UK women.
Up until now, there has been confusion whether the mental illness or the abuse came first and very few previous studies have been able to demonstrate the direction of the relationship.
This new study is the first of its kind in the UK to clearly show that the relationship runs both ways and the key findings were:
- those experiencing domestic abuse are nearly three times as likely to develop mental illness;
- women who are experiencing domestic abuse are also nearly three times more likely to have a history of mental illness;
- this is the first study to show the link between domestic abuse and serious mental illness (bipolar and schizophrenia);
- there is a huge discrepancy found between the abuse reported in GP practices and the national data, showing significant under reporting.
The study, published in the British Journal of Psychiatry, found that not only was there a higher chance of developing mental illness after experiencing domestic abuse, but those with mental illness were more likely to go on to experience further domestic abuse.
Using medical records from UK GP surgeries between 1995 and 2017, researchers have been able to build a narrative of women within the large database before and after experiencing domestic abuse.
The authors identified 18,547 women who had experienced domestic abuse, recorded by their GP. They compared these women to a control group of 74,188 similarly aged women who had not had experience of domestic abuse recorded.
It is the first of its kind in the UK because it is a cohort study, which is a study where people are followed up over time from the point where they have experienced trauma until the point they develop mental illness.