Unhealthy Relationships Double Mental Health Risks Later In Life

Upset Man Sitting Outdoors

Intimate partner violence (IPV) is a public health issue that affects millions of people in the U.S. each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. About 41% of survivors experience some sort of physical injury related to IPV, and now research has revealed subsequent mental health effects. 

A study published in Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology found younger victims of IPV were twice as likely to develop mental health disorders, like depression and anxiety, later in life. 

But first, what is IPV?

Intimate partner violence can include any or all of three behaviors:
  1. Physical abuse, including pushing, shoving, and smacking.
  2. Emotional abuse, including comments that make someone feel worthless, constantly criticized, or manipulated.
  3. Harassment, including unwelcome pressure or intimidation.

Researchers from University of Queensland School studied more than 1,500 participants who were 21 years old and then followed up nine years later.

In the first study, researchers used the Composite Abuse Scale to determine victims of partner violence. In the follow-up, they used the Composite International Diagnostic Interview to diagnose major depression and anxiety disorders. 

Women who were victims of IPV at 21 were more likely to develop major depression by the time they were 30, while male victims were more likely to develop anxiety disorders. 

The number of males and females affected by IPV were equal, which leads Najman to believe couples are more likely to abuse each other than have just one abuser.

"There is a range of treatment and counseling programs available for couples and families to try and improve the way they relate to one another," Najman said. But the findings encourage a need for interventions that address both partner violence and mental health at the same time. 

Furthermore, the link between emotional abuse and the development of anxiety disorders in men "challenges beliefs about invulnerability of men...and demands further attention," according to the study. 

If you are questioning the health of your relationship, these seven behaviors might indicate abuse, even without physical violence.

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