Study links intimate partner violence to suicide and self-harm


Some 47,000 women and girls worldwide were killed by their intimate partners or other family members in 2020

A new Lancet study has demonstrated a direct connection between male and female suicidality and self-harm caused by intimate partner violence (IPV).

Those reporting a lifetime history of IPV are three times more likely to have made a suicide attempt and twice as likely to have engaged in self-harm or had suicidal thoughts in the past year, the study found.

“People who reported having experienced such violence were more likely to report other adversities, including financial issues, bereavement, and physical illness,” the study reveals. “Emotional and physical violence were the most common types of IPV reported.”

Published in The Lancet Psychiatry in June this year, the study says that in 2020, 47 000 women and girls worldwide were killed by their intimate partners or other family members. In other words, every 11 minutes a woman or girl is killed by someone in her own family.

The study is an analysis of the findings from the Adult Psychiatric Morbidity Survey (APMS), which was conducted face-to-face with over 7,000 adults in England in 2014–2015 and was led by the Violence and Society Centre at City, University of London in collaboration with the Universities of Manchester, Leicester, University College London, and Bristol.

Using data from the 2014 Adult Psychiatric Morbidity Survey, the authors have sought to estimate the prevalence of IPV among adults in England and establish the association with suicidal thoughts, self-harm, and suicide attempts.

The study defines IPV as physical, sexual, and emotional abuse and controlling behaviours by an intimate partner. It calls IPV an “important public health issue, and is well known to be related to poor mental health outcomes.”

According to the research, one in three women and one in ten men who attempt suicide will have experienced some form of IPV in the past year.

“This finding has important clinical relevance, particularly for mental health teams and clinicians working with patients who have self-harmed. This research adds further evidence to trauma-informed approaches to care and the need for a full biopsychosocial assessment,” says the study.

“Consideration is needed as to how to best screen for IPV and other types of domestic violence, as well as ensuring appropriate referral and safeguarding processes for victims,” it adds.

Future research, the study points out, could consider establishing premature mortality risk following IPV, including suicide and homicide.

Although the prevalence of IPV is much higher among women, the research shows that all demographic groups are represented, with men reporting the violence constituting 15·3 percent.

“Given the high rates of male suicide, gender-specific approaches to increase screening and reporting of IPV and other forms of domestic violence could be an important component of suicide prevention strategies,” the study argues. “There is a similar need to reach those from minority ethnic groups experiencing similar forms of violence.”