Domestic Violence Victims Are More Likely To Smoke


Women who are victims of domestic violence may be more likely to take up smoking, according to a recent study.

Researchers from Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health found that women who experienced physical or sexual violence perpetrated by their partner were 58 percent more likely to be smokers.

One third of women around the world have experienced physical or sexual violence at the hands of their intimate partners with consequences from post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety, and depression, to sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV.

For the study, researchers examined the association between intimate partner violence and smoking among more than 231,000 women aged 15-29, using information collected in the Demographic and Health Surveys.

Researchers said reports of domestic violence in their study ranged from 9 to 63 percent. Employing a meta-analysis of country-level data that accounted for confounding factors like age, education, and household wealth, they found a 58 percent increased risk for smoking among the women who experienced intimate partner violence.

According to the World Health Organization, women are thought to smoke tobacco to self-medicate to cope with stress from IPV. Many may be unaware of the serious health risks; tobacco kills half of its users.

"A recent WHO report on IPV recommended that there is a clear need to scale-up efforts to both prevent IPV from happening in the first place and to provide necessary services for women experiencing IPV," Peter A. Muennig, senior author of the study and associate professor of Health Policy and Management at Columbia's Mailman School of Public Health, said in a statement.

Rishi Caleyachetty, first author of the study and an epidemiologist on a Fulbright Scholarship at Columbia's Mailman School of Public Health, said the study points to a specific need for investments to help intimate partner violence victims avoid tobacco.

"Information about the consequences of smoking, motivation to quit smoking and smoking-cessation treatments could be incorporated into IPV treatment by healthcare providers who routinely interact with IPV victims," Dr. Caleyachetty said.

Any intervention to lower smoking would very likely also improve their overall health.

The findings were recently published online in the journal Global Public Health.

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