Intimate partner violence early in pandemic linked with worse mental and overall health in women

March 17, 2023—Women who experienced intimate partner violence (IPV) during the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic were more likely to suffer worse mental health and other adverse health effects, according to a new study led by Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

The study was published on March 14 in JAMA Network Open.

Given the increased prevalence of IPV—defined as physical, sexual, or psychological harm by a current or former partner—during the pandemic, the researchers sought to discover its health impacts on women. To do so, they analyzed data from three national cohorts—the Nurses’ Health Study II, Growing Up Today Study, and Nurses’ Health Study 3. Between March and September 2020, 13,597 women under the age of 60 reported on their experiences of IPV; and between May 2020 and October 2021, they reported on symptoms of depression, anxiety, and posttraumatic stress as well as sleep duration, sleep quality, physical activity, and use of alcohol and other substances.

Even accounting for mental health symptoms pre-pandemic, the study found that experiencing IPV was associated with higher odds of symptoms of depression, anxiety, and posttraumatic stress, as well as trouble sleeping, increased consumption of alcohol and other substances to cope with stress, and less exercise.

“Women in abusive relationships are often already isolated from friends, family and the community by their partner,” said lead author Arielle Scoglio, visiting scientist in the Department of Epidemiology, in a March 14 article in The Washington Times, adding that stay-at-home orders in the early stages of the pandemic exacerbated the situation.

The researchers highlighted the need for screening and interventions for IPV and related health factors to help prevent severe, long-term health consequences for women.

Other Harvard Chan co-authors of the study, all from the Department of Epidemiology, included Yiwen Zhu, Rebecca Lawn, Audrey Murchland, Laura Sampson, Janet Rich-Edwards, Shaili Jha, and Karestan Koenen.

Read the Washington Times article: Domestic violence in COVID lockdowns wrecked women’s mental health: Study

Read the study: Intimate Partner Violence, Mental Health Symptoms, and Modifiable Health Factors in Women During the COVID-19 Pandemic in the US