Mon Oct 12, 2009 4:44pm EDT
By Anne Harding
NEW YORK (Reuters Health) – Even if the obvious signs of domestic violence can be hidden, women who are abused may be at risk of other conditions not usually associated with such abuse, according to a new study. Women who have been abused by their partners in the past year are more likely than women who have never been abused to be diagnosed with illnesses ranging from depression to chest pain to urinary tract infections, a new study in the Archives of Internal Medicine shows. “They had elevated risks of about half of the diagnoses we examined in our study,” Dr. Amy E. Bonomi of Ohio State University in Columbus, the study’s lead author, told Reuters Health. Based on the findings, she added, doctors whose patients come to see them for these complaints should ask whether they are experiencing domestic violence. Several studies have linked abuse to illness, but much of this research has looked at women who are being severely abused—for example, those seeking emergency care after being harmed by their partner or those who have filed orders of protection against their partners, Bonomi and her team note in the Archives of Internal Medicine. To get a better sense of the relationship in the general population of women, Bonomi and her colleagues surveyed 3,568 randomly chosen female members of Group Health Cooperative, a health plan covering Washington State and Idaho. Eight percent of the women had experienced some type of domestic violence in the previous year, while 37 percent reported having suffered domestic abuse in their lifetime. The researchers compared the 1,686 women who had never been abused to the 242 who reported recent domestic violence, going through their medical records to find out whether they had been diagnosed with any of 29 different conditions over the last year.