June 7 (UPI) -- Women who suffer domestic violence have almost three times the risk of developing serious mental health challenges, a new study says.
The research, published Friday in the British Journal of Psychiatry, also showed those women are nearly three times as likely to already have a history of mental health illness, such as bipolar disorder and schizophrenia.
"Considering how common domestic abuse is, it is important to understand how strongly the two are connected and consider whether there are possible opportunities to improve the lives of women affected by domestic abuse," study author Joht Singh Chandan, academic clinical fellow in public health at the University of Birmingham, said in a news release. "We need a clear public health approach to prevent the violence and abuse of very vulnerable women."
British researchers examined data of more than 18,000 women who reported domestic violence to their general practitioners in the United Kingdom. Their doctors discovered almost 50 percent of those women had some form of mental illness compared with 24 percent from a control group. After considering other factors that could influence mental health and domestic abuse, the study concluded that domestic abuse survivors had nearly triple the risk of mental illness.
For women who are domestic violence victims, experts say, medical professionals and policymakers need to provide more resources to lessen their negative mental health effects.
"As a frontline psychiatrist working with women with severe mental illness, I am all too aware of the devastating impact domestic abuse has on mental health, and I work with survivors every day," Beena Rajkumar, a researcher at Royal College of Psychiatrists, said in a news release. "This study highlights the two-way relationship between abuse and mental illness, including serious mental illness, and carries a very important warning that we are missing opportunities to detect abuse that is happening all over the country today. Screening and recording of domestic abuse need to be a clear priority for public services so that more effective interventions for this group of vulnerable women can urgently be put in place."