Triple threat to health: Lifelong abuse creates serious consequences for older African-American women

Feb 24, 2009

Older African American women who have experienced high levels of family violence throughout their lives are more likely to suffer worse physical and mental health than their counterparts, found a Temple researcher in the February issue of the Journal of Women's Health.

"In general, there is a higher incidence of mental health issues such as depression and anxiety, and more chronic pain syndromes," said lead author Anuradha Paranjape, M.D., M.P.H., an associate professor of medicine at Temple University School of Medicine and Hospital.

"I think this is an issue for all older women. I have focused on African American women because of my experiences as a busy clinician in downtown Atlanta and now at Temple, where most of my patients are African American. This is an underserved community that experiences health disparities," Paranjape said.

National data shows older African American women are at risk for experiencing poorer health status by virtue of their age, race, and gender. Given this triple threat to their overall health, examining the effect of family violence in this particular demographic group is particularly important, she noted.

These older women have unique service needs since their history of abuse can span across the spectrum of intimate partner violence to other types of abuse later on in life.

"Clinicians caring for older African American women need to be cognizant of the role both current and prior violence exposure may play in their patients' current health status," Paranjape said.

Paranjape advises primary care physicians "to empathize and validate the patient's experiences, and refer them to social support organizations if needed." More importantly, physicians need to know that there may be non-medical reasons why a patient doesn't feel well. If a patient is over the age of 60, it's mandatory for the heath care provider to report the abuse, in Pennsylvania.

For the study, 158 African American women, age 50 or older, were interviewed in ambulatory clinics of a large public hospital. Study participants were asked about the presence and severity of family violence relating to physical violence, emotional, financial, and sexual abuse, neglect, and coercion. Lifetime family violence exposure as well as an adult physical and mental health status were then measured and analyzed by the researchers.

The results found significant differences in scores reflecting poorer health for women who had reported high levels of family violence compared to those who reported low levels or no history of abuse. Unemployment was also found to be strongly associated with worse health status, Paranjape said.

"The next step is to look at what differentiates the women who do better from those who do worse. It is possible that women who do better have better coping skills. In that case, programs that are designed to help survivors of abuse cope in a healthy way need to be funded, implemented and assessed for efficacy," she said.

Source: Temple University

Explore further: New Mexico appeals court hears assisted suicide case

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Microsoft profit dips as revenue rises (Update)

9 hours ago

Microsoft on Monday reported that its quarterly profit dipped but revenue increased in a sign that it is adapting to lifestyles centered on mobile devices and cloud services.

Black hole chokes on a swallowed star

10 hours ago

A five-year analysis of an event captured by a tiny telescope at McDonald Observatory and followed up by telescopes on the ground and in space has led astronomers to believe they witnessed a giant black hole ...

Montana oil spill estimate lowered to 30,000 gallons

11 hours ago

Authorities have lowered their estimate of how much oil spilled from a broken pipeline beneath the Yellowstone River in eastern Montana, briefly contaminating the water supply of a city downstream.

Recommended for you

Hospitals helping violence victims could save millions

13 hours ago

At more than 25 hospitals across the U.S., health care professionals have embraced a public health approach to their work—taking action to prevent violent injuries, not just treat them. In programs known ...

How to stay safe when riding out a blizzard

14 hours ago

(HealthDay)—As a potentially record-breaking blizzard pummels the U.S. Northeast, there are steps residents should take to keep themselves and their loved ones safe, doctors say.

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.