Open Access Research article

Experience of physical violence and mental health among young men and women: a population-based study in Sweden

Maria Fridh1, Martin Lindström12 and Maria Rosvall12*

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Clinical Sciences, Social Medicine and Health Policy, CRC, Jan Waldenströms gata 35, Scania University Hospital, Lund University, SE-205 02 Malmö, Sweden

2 Centre for Economic Demography, Lund University School of Economics and Management, SE-220 07 Lund, Sweden

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BMC Public Health 2014, 14:29  doi:10.1186/1471-2458-14-29

Published: 11 January 2014



In Sweden mental ill-health has increased among the young, especially among young women. Our aim was to investigate the association between experience of physical violence during the past year and self rated psychological health among young men and women.


The study population consisted of men (n = 2,624) and women (n = 3,569) aged 18–34 years who participated in the 2008 public health survey study in Skåne. The survey was a cross-sectional stratified random sample postal questionnaire study with a 54.1% participation rate. Associations were investigated by logistic regression models.


The prevalence of poor psychological health was 18.9% among men and 27.7% among women. One in ten men and one in twenty women had experienced physical violence during the past year. Most men were violated in public places, while women were most often violated at home. Women who had experienced violence during the past year showed more than doubled odds of poor psychological health, odds ratio (OR): 2.66 (95% confidence interval (CI): 2.00, 3.53). Such an association could not be seen in men OR: 1.12 (95% CI: 0.85, 1.47). Adjustment for covariates (i.e. age, country of birth, socioeconomic status, economic stress, alcohol risk consumption, emotional support, instrumental support and generalized trust in other people) did not change the association found among women.


Violated women, but not men, showed nearly doubled odds of poor psychological health after multiple adjustments. There was also a gender difference regarding location of violence. Awareness of gender differences regarding context and mental impact of violence may assist public health workers in reducing the consequences of violence and to design preventive strategies.

Physical violence; Psychological health; Trust; Epidemiology; Sweden