Violence, abuse and mental health in England: preliminary evidence briefing

Document type
Corporate author(s)
National Centre for Social Research (Great Britain); London Metropolitan University. Child and Woman Abuse Studies Unit; DMSS Research and Consultancy
NatCen Social Research
Date of publication
1 June 2014
Mental health services
Social welfare
Material type

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A quarter of the population of England have experience of violence and abuse in their lives. This analysis shows that such experiences are major and under-acknowledged factors shaping people’s mental health and service needs.

Three-quarters of the English population had relatively little experience of violence and abuse. The remaining quarter consisted of people with five distinct profiles of violence and abuse. Each group differed in terms of their socio-economic circumstances, health, mental health and use of treatment and services. Poverty, disability, poor health and health risk behaviours were much more common among groups characterised by extensive violence and abuse.

One of the groups - representing 1 in 25 of the population, around 1.5 million adults - had experienced extensive physical and sexual violence, with an abuse history extending back to childhood. Nearly everyone in this group had, at some point in their life, been pinned down, kicked or hit by a partner. Half had been threatened with death. Most had been sexually abused as a child and some severely beaten by a parent or carer. Many had also been raped as an adult. Over half the members of this group had a common mental disorder such as clinical depression or anxiety. However, only 10% were receiving counselling or a talking therapy.

A further group – representing 1 in 50 of the population - were characterised by extensive physical violence and coercive control from a partner. They also had very high levels of common mental disorder. The analysis shows an extremely strong relationship between partner violence and mental health, which has previously received little attention.

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