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New research shows link between intimate partner violence and women's health

11 March, 2023

Interview by Milly Smyth, adapted by Sofia Kent 

​According to Professor Tracey McIntosh from the University of Auckland (pictured), researchers have been able to demonstrate the link between intimate partner violence and illness for the first time. Photo: supplied by Tracey McIntosh.

Listen to the full interview

New research from the University of Auckland has found that women who have experienced intimate partner violence (IPV) are more likely to struggle with mental health and chronic illness. 

Researchers surveyed 1464 women aged 16 to 90 from across Aotearoa who have experienced IPV in various forms; physical, emotional, and financial.  

Their data showed that women who have experienced IPV in their lifetime are almost three times as likely to have a diagnosed mental health condition and almost twice as likely to have a chronic illness compared with women who have not. 

More than half (54.7%) of those surveyed reported that they had experienced one or more of these types of abuse over their lifetime, with wāhine Māori reporting the highest rates of experiencing IPV in their lifetime, at 64.1%.

Professor Tracey McIntosh from the University of Auckland told 95bFM’s The Wire that this is the first time they have been able to demonstrate the link between IPV and illness.

“Particularly with severe and persistent forms of intimate personal violence across the different categories, the more you have (experienced IPV) the more likely you are to have a serious or ongoing health impact.”

McIntosh added that the researchers were not just interested in identifying and categorising violence, but also looking at preventative measures. 

“There’s a real opportunity for global transformation, in a space where at the moment, our indicators in terms of IPV and family violence are so poor.”

McIntosh said prevention-based programmes are key, noting in particular, the need for education targeting men and boys about power and control dynamics in relationships. 

McIntosh also stressed the need for a healthcare response, which recognises that much like smoking and alcohol use and misuse, IPV is a social determinant of health. 

“Particularly for Māori responses, we need to ensure those responses are by Māori for Māori, culturally informed, and seek to improve the outcomes of wahine Māori, tāne maori, and tamariki māori.”

Alongside changes in our healthcare system, McIntosh also encouraged strong community support, to allow those facing severe and consistent forms of IPV to seek help, if they are in danger.

“There is a need for us to be connected with others, be mindful of others, be watching of others, and recognise that all of us have a duty to care about others.”

“If we’re really going to deal with intimate partner violence in the broader sense, it does demand a response from all of us.” 

Where to get help:

Women's Refuge - 0800 733 843 (women and children).

Shine - 0508 744 633 (women, men, and non-binary people). Available 24 hours a day.

Youthline - 0800 376 633, free text 234, email, or find online chat options here.

What’s Up - 0800 942 8787 (for 5-18 year olds). Phone counselling available Monday - Friday, noon-11pm and weekends, 3pm-11pm. Online chat is available 3pm-10pm daily.

If you or someone you know is in immediate danger call 111.

Public interest journalism funded through NZ On Air