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Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Violence, mental health and violence risk factors among community women: an epidemiological study based on two national household surveys in the UK

Min Yang12*, Stephen CP Wong2 and Jeremy W Coid3

Author Affiliations

1 School of Public Health, Huaxi Medical Centre, Sichuan University, No 17, Section 3, South Renmin Road, Chengdu, China

2 Institute of Mental Health, University of Nottingham, The Innovation Park of Nottingham, NG7 2TU Nottingham, UK, England

3 Forensic Psychiatry Research Unit, Queen Mary’s University London, William Harvey House, 61 Bartholomew Close, EC1A 7BE, London, UK, England

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BMC Public Health 2013, 13:1020  doi:10.1186/1471-2458-13-1020

Published: 29 October 2013



Females who perpetrated violence in the community have important mental health and public protection implications. There is a dearth of research in this area. This study investigated the prevalence of psychiatric morbidity, personality disorders as well as victim characteristics and violence risk factors of women in the community who self-reported violence against others.


The study sample consisted of 8,275 community women aged 16–74 years obtained from the 2000 and 2007 UK national psychiatric morbidity surveys. Self report incidences of violence, personality disorders and the presence of psychiatric symptoms were assessed by interviews and/or established structured psychiatric assessment protocols.


Weighted prevalence of female violence, which primarily involved partners and friends, was 5.5% in 2000 and 5.1% in 2007. Violence-prone women also had significantly higher prevalence of common mental disorders and comorbidity (adjusted odds ratio 3.3 and 2.9 respectively) than non-violent women. Multivariate analyses identified eight significant risk factors that characterized violence prone women: young age, residing in social-assisted housing, presence of early conduct problems, victim of domestic violence, self-harming, excessive drinking and past criminal justice involvements.


A higher prevalence of common mental disorders and some types of personality disorder was found among violence prone women compared to their non-violence prone counterparts. The identified violence risk factors could be used to develop a quick and easily administered rating tool suitable for use by non-mental health trained frontline workers such as police and social support workers in the community to identify violence-prone women. Mental health and support services then can be provided to them for mental health care and violence prevention purposes.

Female violence; Mental disorders; Risk factors; Community samples; UK