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Ann Epidemiol. 2002 Feb;12(2):123-30.

Cumulative abuse experiences, physical health and health behaviors.

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  • 1Department of Epidemiology, School of Public Health, University at Albany, Rensselaer, NY 12144, USA.



Our purpose was to investigate the complex relationship between a range of lifetime abuse experiences with current physical health and health behaviors.


Between October 1998 and May 1999, interviews were conducted with 557 ethnically diverse women seen at two urban primary care centers. Seven forms of abuse were measured: childhood physical and sexual abuse, past physical and sexual intimate partner violence (IPV), and recent emotional, physical, and sexual IPV. Severity was measured for six of these forms. Multiple non-specific physical symptoms were measured with a modified PRIME-MD, and four health behaviors were ascertained.


Approximately 10% of women never experiencing abuse reported multiple non-specific physical symptoms, compared with 25.8% to 78.4% of women reporting a range of abuse experiences. Increases in recent IPV, past IPV, child abuse, and economic hardship were associated with increases in reported symptoms. Women who experienced IPV were more likely to report smoking cigarettes, binge drinking, and having poor nutritional habits.


Recent IPV is associated with physical symptoms and risky health behaviors beyond the effects of child abuse, past IPV, and economic disadvantage. Understanding a person's IPV experiences may inform interventions for health behaviors, such as smoking cessation programs.

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