Dr Deborah Loxton: Domestic abuse and health: Quantitative and qualitative investigations among mid-aged Australian women.
This thesis aimed to examine the relationships between a history of domestic violence and women’s health service use, and physical and psychological health in mid-life; to determine factors that mediate the relationship between domestic violence and mid-life health; and to elaborate on these quantitative findings with information from qualitative interviews.
Multiple regression analyses were conducted using data from the Mid-age cohort of the ALSWH. The analyses used data from Survey 1 (1996; N = 14,100; 45-50 years) for health service use, physical health, and mediation analyses, and Survey 2 (1998; N = 11,648; 47-52 years) for psychological health analyses. Qualitative telephone interviews were conducted with a subset of the Mid-age sample (2001; N = 26; 50-55 years). Associations were found between domestic violence and increased health service use; decreased physical health, physical symptoms, and diagnosed illnesses; and diagnoses of psychological disorders and symptoms, and psychoactive medication use.
The relationship between domestic violence and physical health was partially mediated by stress, life events, education, income management, and smoking; and the relationship between domestic violence and psychological health was mediated by stress, life events, and social support. In-depth qualitative interviews indicated that domestic abuse affected women’s ability to seek health services; directly and adversely affected their physical and psychological health in the short- and long-term; and that mediating factors occurred subsequent to domestic abuse, and adversely affected health. Additional factors (eg. coping strategies) may also mediate the relationship between domestic abuse and health.
This thesis concludes that domestic abuse leads to an increased need for health services; and that domestic abuse has direct adverse and long-term consequences for physical and psychological health. Furthermore, domestic abuse affects lifestyle, and causes coping responses that influence physical and psychological health.