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Intimate partner violence (IPV) is defined as threatened, attempted, or completed physical or sexual violence or emotional abuse by a current or former intimate partner. IPV can be committed by a spouse, an ex-spouse, a current or former boyfriend or girlfriend, or a dating partner (1).

Each year, IPV results in an estimated 1,200 deaths and 2 million injuries among women and nearly 600,000 injuries among men (1). In addition to the risk for death and injury, IPV has been associated with certain adverse health conditions and health risk behaviors (1).

To gather additional information regarding the prevalence of IPV and to assess the association between IPV and selected adverse health conditions and health risk behaviors, CDC included IPV-related questions in an optional module of the 2005 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS) survey.

This report describes the results of that survey, which indicated that persons who report having experienced IPV during their lifetimes also are more likely to report current adverse health conditions and health risk behaviors.

Although a causal link between IPV and adverse health conditions cannot be inferred from these results, they underscore the need for IPV assessment in health-care settings. In addition, the results indicate a need for secondary intervention strategies to address the health-related needs of IPV victims and reduce their risk for subsequent adverse health conditions and health risk behaviors…

[w]hether adverse health outcomes are caused by IPV cannot be inferred.

Evidence from other studies, however, suggests that one underlying mechanism that might link IPV and chronic diseases is the biologic response to long-term or ongoing stress (2–5).

For example, the link between violence, stress, and somatic disorders (e.g., fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome, temporomandibular disorder, and irritable bowel syndrome) has been well established (3,5).

These same stress responses also have been linked to various chronic diseases, including cardiovascular disease, asthma, diabetes, and gastrointestinal disorders (3,6).

Conversely, adverse health conditions might, in certain cases, lead to increased IPV. Data suggest that women with disabilities experience more IPV than those without disabilities (7). 

Entire Report:
[CDC, MMWR Weekly, February 8, 2008, 57(05);113-117]