Published in The Lancet Psychiatry, a new study is the first to show that intimate partner violence (IPV) is strongly associated with self-harm and suicidality in both men and women, and across all ages in England.
While IPV is a recognised risk factor for psychiatric disorders, there had previously been little evidence on IPV and self-harm and suicidality.
Led by the Violence and Society Centre at City, University of London, in collaboration with the University of Manchester, University of Leicester, University College London, and the University of Bristol, the study was an analysis of results from the Adult Psychiatric Morbidity Survey (APMS) conducted face to face with over 7,000 adults, in 2014/5.
A nationally representative cross section of households in England were interviewed, capturing information on gender, age, socioeconomic status, ethnicity and regional location.
Study participants were asked about experience of physical violence and sexual, economic, and emotional abuse from a current or former partner, and about suicidal thoughts, suicide attempts, and self-harm.
The study found that 27 per cent of women and 15 per cent of men had experienced IPV at some point in their life, confirming that women are far more likely than men to experience violence from a partner. People with experience of IPV were more likely to live in more deprived neighbourhoods and to have also experienced many other adversities in their lives. However, the associations between IPV and self-harm and suicidality remained strong even when these other factors were adjusted for.
After adjusting for experience of other adversities, as well as demographic and socioeconomic factors, people who had ever experienced IPV in their lives, compared to those who had not, had in the previous year:
- over twice the risk of self-harming without suicidal intent
- almost twice the risk of having suicidal thoughts
- and almost three times the risk of attempting suicide
If any IPV had been experienced within the previous year, then the risks were even higher.
Particularly elevated rates of self-harm, suicidal thoughts, and suicide attempts were found in those who were ever subjected to sexual and emotional IPV, those who ever experienced physical injury from IPV, and those who had experienced multiple forms of IPV, which indicates that the more types of IPV someone is exposed to, the higher the risk they are of self-harm and suicidality.
Sally McManus, Senior Lecturer in Health in the Violence and Society Centre and the School of Health Sciences, City, University of London and first author of the study said:
“There is a high likelihood that someone presenting to services in suicidal distress is a victim of intimate partner violence (IPV). Health, social care, and welfare professionals need to ask people who have self-harmed or are at risk of suicide if they are experiencing IPV, and professionals should be prepared - and supported - to act accordingly.
Dr Estela Barbosa, Senior Research Fellow in the Violence and Society Centre, City, University of London and a co-author said:
“Intimate partner violence is common in England, especially among women. The gender gap was widest for sexual IPV, which was about ten times more common in women than men, and this IPV type was associated with particularly high odds of self-harm and suicidality.
Dr Duleeka Knipe, Population Health Sciences at Bristol Medical School, University of Bristol, Bristol and co-author said:
“Strategies for violence reduction should form part of individual-level suicide risk assessment and safety planning, and they should feature in national suicide prevention strategies. Interventions designed to reduce the prevalence and duration of IPV might protect and improve the lives of people at risk of self-harm and suicide.”
Notes to editors
To speak to Sally McManus or Dr Estela Barbosa contact Shamim Quadir, Senior Communications Officer, School of Health Sciences. Tel: +44(0) 207 040 8782 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Read the research article
For people who may be affected by the contents of this release, a list of organisations from which to seek support in the UK:
Whatever you’re facing, a Samaritan will face it with you. We’re here, day or night, for anyone who’s struggling to cope, who needs someone to listen without judgement or pressure.
Call: 116 123 for free from any UK mobile phone network or landline provider (restrictions may be in place on landlines from some offices, organisations and care homes).
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A grassroots federation working together to provide life-saving services in England and build a future where domestic abuse is not tolerated. Links to sister organisations in Scotland
UK-wide charity dedicated to ending domestic abuse, for everyone and for good.
For Women and Children. Against Domestic Violence.
Freephone 24-Hour National Domestic Abuse Helpline: 0808 2000 247
Standing Together Against Domestic Abuse is a national charity bringing communities together to end domestic abuse.
Working to end domestic abuse. Leading the development of safe, effective work with perpetrators, male victims and young people using violence and abuse
We are the only UK-based, umbrella women's organisation dedicated to addressing violence against Black and Minoritised women and girls i.e. women which are defined in policy terms as Black and 'Minority Ethnic' (BME).
We support LGBT+ people who have experienced abuse and violence
The research was supported by the UK Prevention Research Partnership (Violence, Health and Society; MR-VO49879/1), which is funded by the British Heart Foundation, Chief Scientist Office of the Scottish Government Health and Social Care Directorates, Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council, Economic and Social Research Council, Health and Social Care Research and Development Division (Welsh Government), Medical Research Council, National Institute for Health and Care Research, Natural Environment Research Council, Public Health Agency (Northern Ireland), The Health Foundation, and Wellcome.
The views expressed in this Article are those of the authors and not necessarily those of the UK Prevention Research Partnership or any other funder.
About City, University of London
City, University of London is a global higher education institution committed to academic excellence, with a focus on business and the professions and an enviable central London location.
City’s academic range is broadly-based with world-leading strengths in business; law; health sciences; mathematics; computer science; engineering; social sciences; and the arts including journalism and music.
City has around 20,000 students (46% at postgraduate level) from more than 160 countries and staff from over 75 countries.
In the last REF, City doubled the proportion of its total academic staff producing world-leading or internationally excellent research.
More than 140,000 former students from over 180 countries are members of the City Alumni Network.
The University’s history dates from 1894, with the foundation of the Northampton Institute on what is now the main part of City’s campus. In 1966, City was granted University status by Royal Charter and the Lord Mayor of London became its Chancellor. In September 2016, City joined the University of London and HRH the Princess Royal became City’s Chancellor.
About the University of Bristol
The University is ranked within the top 10 universities in the UK and 58th in the world (QS World University Rankings 2022); it is also ranked among the top five institutions in the UK for its research, according to analysis of the Research Excellence Framework (REF) 2021; and is the 3rd most targeted university by top UK employers.
The University was founded in 1876 and was granted its Royal Charter in 1909. It was the first university in England to admit women on the same basis as men.
The University is a major force in the economic, social and cultural life of Bristol and the region, but is also a significant player on the world stage. It has over 20,000 undergraduates and over 7,000 postgraduate students from more than 150 countries, and its research links span the globe.
The Lancet Psychiatry
Method of Research
Subject of Research
Intimate partner violence, suicidality, and self-harm: a probability sample survey of the general population in England
Article Publication Date