A preventable burden: Measuring and addressing the prevalence and health impacts of intimate partner violence in Australian women: Key findings and future directions

Sunday, 30th October 2016

Intimate partner violence, including violence in both cohabiting and non-cohabiting relationships and emotional abuse:

  • is prevalent–affecting one in three women since the age of 15. One in four women have experienced violence or abuse from a cohabiting partner. If we only consider physical and sexual violence, then one in six women have experienced at least one incident of violence by a cohabiting partner;
  • ​has serious impacts for women’s health–contributing to a range of negative health outcomes, including poor mental health, problems during pregnancy and birth, alcohol and illicit drug use, suicide, injuries and homicide;
  • contributes an estimated 5.1 percent to the disease burden in Australian women aged 18-44 years and 2.2% of the burden in women of all ages;
  • contributes more to the burden than any other risk factor in women aged 18-44 years, more than well known risk factors like tobacco use, high cholesterol or use of illicit drugs;
  • is estimated to contribute five times more to the burden of disease among Indigenous than non-Indigenous women;
  • is estimated to make a larger contribution than any other risk factor to the gap in the burden between Indigenous and non-Indigenous women aged 18-44 years; and
  • has serious consequences for the development and wellbeing of children living with violence.

There has been no decrease in the prevalence or health burden of intimate partner violence since both were last measured in Australia.

Intimate partner violence and its health impacts are preventable.

The health burden of intimate partner violence can be reduced by:

  • supporting women and children’s long-term recovery in the aftermath of violence;
  • responding to violence to stop it occurring again;
  • intervening when there are early warning signs of violence; and
  • preventing violence from occurring in the first place by addressing known root causes.

Because experiencing intimate partner violence increases the risk of health problems, to substantially reduce the health burden, it will be necessary to prevent new cases of violence. This will require a greater emphasis on early intervention and primary prevention to stop violence from occurring in the first place.

There is agreement among expert bodies that reducing intimate partner violence and the health burden it causes will require a coordinated approach involving all levels of prevention and all sectors of society (Michau, Horn, Bank, Dutt, & Zimmerman, 2014; UN Women, 2015).

Australia is well placed to achieve this because the Commonwealth and state and territory governments have agreed to a coordinated national approach in the National Plan to Reduce Violence against Women and their Children 2010-2022 (Council of Australian Governments, 2011). This study shows that it will be important to continue to support and strengthen this national approach. There is a particular need for a focus on reducing violence affecting Indigenous women, and other groups of women experiencing more prevalent, severe or frequent violence.

Download ANROWS Compass 07-2016

The Examination of the Burden of Disease study was released in two reports. The first provides technical information about the methodology as well as detailed estimates of the health burden due to exposure to IPV - Examination of the burden of disease of intimate partner violence against women in 2011: Final report. The second report focuses on two populations that experience the highest health impacts: women of reproductive age (18-44 years) and Indigenous women (see above).