Domestic violence victims in a hospital setting: Prevalence, health impact and patients’ preferences – Results from a cross-sectional study

European Journal of Psychotraumatology

David Riedl, Silvia Exenberger, Judith K. Daniels, Bettina Böttcher, Thomas Beck, Daniel Dejaco & Astrid Lampe

Background: Domestic violence (DV) is a widespread yet commonly underdetected problem with severe impact on physical and mental health. To date, only limited information is available on prevalence and detection-rates of victims of DV in hospital settings.

Objective: The aim of this study was (a) to assess the prevalence and impact of DV on physical and mental health as well as risk-factors associated with it, (b) to determine how many patients had been asked directly about DV in the hospital and (c) to investigate patients’ preferences about being asked about DV in a hospital setting.

Methods: Adult inpatients and outpatients at seven somatic departments at the University Hospital Innsbruck (Austria) were included consecutively in this ad-hoc, cross-sectional paper-and-pencil questionnaire-based study. In total, n = 2,031 patients were assessed regarding their experiences with DV. They also reported on whether they had been asked about DV at the hospital and whether they would mind being asked about it. To evaluate the impact of DV on patients’ self-reported physical and mental health, odds ratios were calculated using binary logistic regression.

Results: DV was reported by 17.4% of patients, with 4.0% indicating current DV exposure. Lifetime DV exposure was associated with a significant risk for both physical and mental health-problems. Only 4.8% of patients with DV exposure had ever been asked about it by hospital staff. While patients with a history of DV were more open to being asked about DV than patients without DV (78.2% vs. 72.9%), overall acceptance was still high (74%).

Conclusion: DV is a frequently overlooked problem with detrimental effects on physical and mental health. While high acceptance of DV assessment was found, only a small proportion of affected patients had indeed been assessed for DV. Screening for DV in hospitals may thus increase the number of identified patients.

Keywords: domestic violence; abuse; identification; prevalence; posttraumatic stress disorder

Citation: Riedl, D., Exenberger, S., Daniels, J. K., Böttcher, B., Beck, T., Dejaco, D., & Lampe, A. (2019). Domestic violence victims in a hospital setting: prevalence, health impact and patients’ preferences–results from a cross-sectional study. European Journal of Psychotraumatology, 10, 1654063.

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