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Depression May Double Women's Risk of Suffering Domestic Abuse

Update Date: May 07, 2013 05:26 PM EDT

Past studies have shown that women who have experienced domestic are at higher risk of becoming depressed.  However, a new study reveals that women who are depressed are also more likely to experience domestic violence.

The findings published in the journal PLOS Medicine also found a link between domestic abuse and subsequent suicide among women, but little evidence to support a similar finding in men.

Lead researcher Karen Devries fromD the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine and her team reviewed past longitudinal studies to study intimate partner violence, depression and suicide attempts. The study involved over 36,000 people from high- and middle-income countries.

Not only did researchers find that domestic abuse nearly doubled the risk of subsequent depression in women, depression can also double the odds of subsequently experiencing intimate partner violence.

Researchers found some evidence of a link between domestic violence and later depression in men, but no evidence between depressive symptoms and subsequent intimate partner violence.

"Our findings suggest that interventions to prevent violence need to be explored for their efficacy in reducing different forms of depression," researchers wrote in the study.

"Similarly, for women already receiving mental health treatments or presenting with symptoms of depression, attention must be paid to experiences of violence and risk of future violence," they added.

Researchers say more research needs to be done to understand why having depressive symptoms can lead to domestic violence.  Researchers suggest that it could be that young women with depressive symptoms are inclined to date people who use violence.

"It is clear that addressing the burden of untreated mental disorders in a population could have substantial effects on the prevalence of violence," researchers noted.

In an accompanying article, Alexander Tsai from Harvard Medical School, who was not involved in the study, wrote that the latest findings "reveals major gaps in research on intimate partner violence and depression".

"A life course perspective, which is missing from much of the research on determinants of violence in general, would greatly enrich the field by helping intervention programs better address histories of child abuse and/or family violence in identifying targets for secondary prevention," Tsai concluded.

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