A new study, which was published in BMJ Open, has concluded that men who are experiencing or perpetrating domestic violence have a higher incidence of mental health problems. Even more specific, the study found out that men who had visited their general practitioner with depression or anxiety symptoms are more likely to have carried out or experienced a behavior that was linked to domestic violence and abuse. The study comes from researchers out of the University of Bristol, and the researchers are saying that the results of the study are highlighting the need for doctors to ask male patients about domestic abuse, especially if they are coming into the doctors office with anxiety or depression symptoms.
The lead author of the study was Professor Marianne Hester, and Hester along with her team was hoping to find out whether or not there was an association between the men who had experienced or carried out domestic violence and those men who had visited their doctor with mental health issues. The study also was looking for an association between domestic violence and men who binge drink or use marijuana on a regular basis.
For the study, the researchers handed out questionnaires to 16 different general practitioner practices in the South West, and 1,368 men who were over age 18 ended up completing the study. The questionnaire asked about whether or not the men had perpetrated any of the four negative behaviors that were linked to domestic violence and abuse. These negative behaviors included forced sex, feeling frightened, physically hurting someone or asking permission from a partner. The survey then went on to ask about experiences of each negative behavior and then followed up with questions about the relationship that the perpetrator was in at the time. The frequency and escalation of the experience was also asked about in the survey questionnaire. The questionnaire included even more questions which asked about the perpetration of any of the four negative behaviors towards a current or former partner within a 12 month time frame.
The results of the study showed that 309 men out of the 1,368 men in the study had experienced at least one of the four negative behaviors that were associated with abuse and domestic violence. 212 men out of the respondents had reported they had perpetrated the behaviors at least one time within that 12 month period. The researchers had also found that the men who were using any one of the forms of negative behaviors towards a partner were between three and five times more likely to report anxiety symptoms compared to men who were not perpetrating these acts of domestic abuse. The study did not find an association between domestic abuse and excessive drinking or marijuana use.
The results of the study show that men who present with symptoms of depression and anxiety in a primary care setting have a higher likelihood of being the perpetrator or victim of domestic violence or abuse. Professor Hester, who is also Head of the Center for Gender and Violence Research at Bristol’s School for Policy Studies said that most of the research about domestic violence focuses on the women. There has not been that much research on the men who are involved in domestic violence situations, and the men who are going into a primary care setting with anxiety or depression need to be asked about domestic violence and abuse. This is because these men are more vulnerable to becoming the victim or the perpetrator of such acts. Previous studies have also shown that mental health problems are more common in men who are experiencing or perpetrating domestic violence and abuse.
Co-author of the study, Professor Gene Feder, who works at the Center for Academic Primary Care at Bristol’s School for Social and Community Medicine also commented about the results of the study. Feder said that “ The extent and health impact of negative behaviours consistent with domestic violence and abuse among male patients is largely invisible to Gps. Our study will help focus attention on this hidden problem in general practice and provides a basis for training GPs in how to identify and respond safely to men experiencing or perpetrating domestic violence and abuse.
In terms of what this study really means, it means that doctors need to become more aware of what anxiety and depression can do to the male population. Often times doctors will either prescribe drugs to patients to get them out of the office quickly or just write a referral to a psychologist, and often times the patient does not follow through with the therapy referral. Instead of a primary care doctor just writing a prescription out or shifting the patient onto another doctor, the primary care doctor needs to get involved more and ask questions.
While it’s true that a primary care doctor cannot treat patients like a psychologist can, they are able to ask questions about domestic violence if the patient comes in talking about depression and anxiety. The quicker a man who is a victim or perpetrator of domestic violence gets treatment and help they need in terms of mental health, the less likely there will be a bad outcome to the situation. If domestic violence is not quickly stopped, then it can lead to the man either being in jail or dead depending on whether they are the victim or the perpetrator in the experience. The study also shows that there is a need for more mental health questions and evaluations from the medical community, since a lot of violence and abuse stems from mental health problems that tend to go untreated for years.