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Intimate partner violence and mental ill health among global populations of Indigenous women: a systematic review

Abstract

Purpose

Intimate partner violence (IPV) has been recognised as a major obstacle to the achievement of gender equality and human development. Its adverse physical and mental health consequences have been reported to affect women of all ages and backgrounds. Although Indigenous women seem to experience higher rates of partner abuse than non-Indigenous women, mental health consequences of IPV among this population are not yet clearly established in the literature. This study systematically reviewed the global literature on mental health outcomes and risk factors for mental ill health among Indigenous women who experienced IPV.

Methods

Primary quantitative and mixed methods studies that reported about mental health and IPV among Indigenous women (aged 14+) were included. 21 bibliographic databases were searched until January 2017. Quality of included studies was assessed through the Newcastle–Ottawa Scale. Findings are reported according to PRISMA-P 2015.

Results

13 studies were identified. The majority of studies reported very high rates of IPV and high prevalence of mental disorders. The most frequently identified types of IPV were physical and/or sexual violence, verbal aggression, and emotional abuse. The strongest predictor of poor mental health was physical violence. The most commonly reported mental health outcomes were depression and posttraumatic stress disorder.

Conclusions

Despite the small number of studies identified, the available evidence suggests that experiences of IPV and mental disorders among Indigenous women are linked and exacerbated by poverty, discrimination, and substance abuse. More research is needed to better understand distributions and presentations of IPV-related mental illness in this population.

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Correspondence to Marta Chmielowska.

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Chmielowska, M., Fuhr, D.C. Intimate partner violence and mental ill health among global populations of Indigenous women: a systematic review. Soc Psychiatry Psychiatr Epidemiol 52, 689–704 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00127-017-1375-z

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Keywords

  • Systematic review
  • Indigenous women
  • Intimate partner violence
  • Mental health