Violence victimisation—a watershed for young women’s mental and physical health

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Purpose: The association between victimisation and adverse health in children is well established but few studies have addressed the effect of victimisation, especially multiple victimisations, in older adolescents and young adults. The aim of this study was to assess self-reported health in young women (15–22 years) victimised to one or more types of violence, compared with non-victimised. Methods: Young women visiting youth health centres in Sweden answered a questionnaire constructed from standardised instruments addressing violence victimisation (emotional, physical, sexual and family violence), socio-demographics, substance use and physical and mental health. Adjusted odds ratio (AOR) with 95% confidence interval (CI) and attributable risk (AR) were assessed. Results: Of 1051 women (73% of eligible women), 25% were lifetime victims of one type of violence and 31% of two or more types of violence. Sexual-minority young women were more victimised than heterosexual women. Violence victimisation increased the risk for adverse health outcomes, especially evident for those multiply victimised. Victims of two or more types of violence had AOR 11.8 (CI 6.9–20.1) for post-traumatic stress symptoms, 6.3 (CI 3.9–10.2) for anxiety symptoms and 10.8 (CI 5.2–22.5) for suicide ideation. The AR of victimisation accounted for 41% of post-traumatic stress symptoms, 30% of anxiety symptoms and 27% of suicide ideation. Stratified analyses showed that lower economic resources did not influence health negatively for non-victimised, whereas it multiplicatively reinforced ill-health when combined with violence victimisation. Conclusion: Violence victimisation, and particularly multiple victimisations, was strongly associated with mental ill-health in young women, especially evident in those with low economic resources.

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