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Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Intimate partner violence among women with mental health-related activity limitations: a Canadian population based study

Janice Du Mont12* and Tonia Forte1

Author Affiliations

1 Women’s College Research Institute, Women's College Hospital, 7th Floor, 790 Bay St, Toronto ON M5G 1N8, Canada

2 Dalla Lana School of Public Health, University of Toronto, 6th floor, 155 College St, Toronto ON M5T 3M7, Canada

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BMC Public Health 2014, 14:51  doi:10.1186/1471-2458-14-51

Published: 18 January 2014



There is strong evidence that women with serious or chronic mental illness experience higher rates of violence than women in the general population. Our objective was to examine the risk of intimate partner violence (IPV), a form of violence that is often recurrent and linked to negative physical and psychological consequences, among a representative sample of non-institutionalized women with activity limitations (ALs) due to a mental health condition.


Data from the 2009 General Social Survey were used, a national, population-based, cross-sectional survey. The sample included 6851 women reporting contact with a current or former partner in the previous five years, of whom 322 (4.7%) reported a mental health-related AL always/often or sometimes.


The prevalence of any type of IPV was highest among women with mental health-related ALs always/often (54.4%), followed by women reporting ALs sometimes (49.9%), and those reporting no ALs (18.3%, p < 0.0001). The same pattern was observed for emotional (51.1%, 45.5%, 16.3%, p < 0.0001) and financial IPV (18.1%, 9.5%, 4.0%, p < 0.0001). For physical/sexual violence, rates were similar among women reporting mental health-related ALs always/often and sometimes, but were lower among those reporting no ALs (20.2%, 20.9%, 5.9%, p < 0.0001). In a logistic regression analysis the odds of having experienced any IPV remained greater for women reporting ALs always/often (OR = 3.65; 95% CI: 2.10, 6.32) and sometimes (OR = 3.20; 95% CI: 2.15, 4.75) than those reporting no ALs. Several social capital variables, including perceptions of having experienced discrimination, a weak sense of belonging in their local community, and low trust toward family members and strangers were also significantly associated with having experienced IPV.


Findings suggest that women with mental health-related ALs may be at increased risk of IPV. Health and social service providers may need, therefore, to better target prevention and intervention initiatives to this population.

Intimate partner violence; Mental health; Activity limitations; Prevalence