Gender-based violence and the threat to women’s mental health

Susan J Rees and Derrick M Silove
Med J Aust 2011; 195 (8): . || doi: 10.5694/mja11.11073
Published online: 17 October 2011

A sustained and coordinated multisectoral approach is vital

Recent research has shown a striking association between gender-based violence (GBV) and lifetime mental disorders among Australian women.1 Data from the 2007 National Survey of Mental Health and Wellbeing2 offer important lessons for advancing policy and practice in this key area of human rights and public health. More than a quarter of the 4451 women surveyed had experienced one of the common forms of gender-based violence (GBV): rape (8.1%), other forms of sexual assault (14.7%), physical intimate partner violence (7.8%) and stalking (10.0%). Sexual assault and rape often occurred for the first time at an early age (median 12 and 13 years, respectively). GBV was strongly associated with a wide range of mental disorders including mood, anxiety and substance-use disorders; women exposed to one form of GBV had double the rate of any lifetime mental disorder (58%) of unexposed women (27%). GBV was also strongly associated with severity and comorbidity of mental disorder, suicide attempts, disability, poor quality of life, unemployment and overall socioeconomic disadvantage.

  • Susan J Rees1
  • Derrick M Silove2

  • Psychiatry Research and Teaching Unit, University of New South Wales, Liverpool Hospital, Sydney, NSW.


Competing interests:

No relevant disclosures.


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