November 2002

Prevalence of battering among 1780 outpatients at an internal medicine institution in Mexico

Diaz-Olavarrieta C, Ellertson C, Paz F, Ponce de Leon S, Alarcon D. Prevalence of battering among 1780 outpatients at an internal medicine institution in Mexico. Social Science and Medicine. November 2002; 55(9):1589-1602.

Violence against women has recently drawn attention in the medical community as a leading cause of preventable morbidity and mortality. Specific algorithms designed to identify women at risk can be applied to create an opportunity for screening, diagnosis and treatment during medical care initiated for common conditions. This study investigated the incidence and history of battering among women seeking general medical care, and looked for potential risk factors and associations with presenting symptoms. We used a self-administered, anonymous survey to question 1780 adult female outpatients visiting a tertiary care internal medicine teaching hospital in Mexico City. We calculated current abuse (physical and/or sexual abuse by a partner within the past year), abuse during pregnancy, childhood abuse, and lifetime abuse. We found levels of violence against women in Mexico comparable to those reported from other countries. 152 women (9%) reported current physical and/or sexual abuse. An identical number also reported abuse during pregnancy. Lifetime prevalence was 41%. Women currently or previously abused reported more physical symptoms in the last six months than did non-abused participants. Pelvic pain, depression, headache and substance abuse were frequent among abused women. Currently abused women also scored higher (p<0.01) on indicators of depression. Current abuse correlated strongly with a childhood history of physical and/or sexual abuse, with low educational level of the victim, with substance abuse by the partner or by the woman herself, and with higher parity.