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Link Between Domestic Violence and Mental Health Problems

A recent study has found that men visiting their GP with symptoms of anxiety or depression are more likely to have experienced or carried out some form of behaviour linked to domestic violence and abuse.

The study, by researchers at the University of Bristol, aimed to find out whether there is an association between men who have experienced or carried out domestic violence and abuse with men visiting their GP with mental health problems or who are binge drinking and using cannabis.

Respondents were asked whether they had experienced or perpetrated any of four negative behaviours linked to domestic violence and abuse, such as feeling frightened, physically hurt, forced sex, or having to ask permission from a partner. The survey then asked about experiences of these negative behaviours, followed by questions about their relationship with the perpetrator, frequency and escalation of the experience.

The study found 309 (22.7%) of the 1,368 participants experienced at least one of the four negative behaviours associated with domestic violence and abuse, and 212 (16.9%) respondents reported perpetration of these behaviours at least once.

Researchers also found that men who used some form of negative behaviour towards their partners were three to five times more likely to report symptoms of anxiety than non-perpetrators. However, the study found no strong association between domestic violence and abuse with excessive drinking or cannabis use.

“Research on domestic violence and abuse has largely focused on women and there is a lack of research on men, both as victims and perpetrators,” commented lead author of the study, Professor Marianne Hester OBE. “The findings from this study are important as they suggest that when men present to GPs with anxiety or depression, they should be asked about domestic violence and abuse as there is a higher likelihood that they will be victims or perpetrators.”

“The findings are consistent with previous studies, which found that mental health problems are more common in men who either perpetrate or experience domestic violence and abuse, and serve as an important indicator to clinicians,” she added.

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