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Soc Sci Med. 2007 Sep;65(6):1222-34. Epub 2007 Jun 18.

Does violence affect one gender more than the other? The mental health impact of violence among male and female university students.

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Department of Psychology, University of Trieste, Trieste, Italy.


The impact of violence on health has been studied mostly among women. While the studies including men show that violence is detrimental for them also, knowledge concerning gender differences is scarce. This study explores whether violence has a different impact on males and females in a sample of 502 Italian university students, responding to a self-administered questionnaire. We considered violence by family members, witnessed family violence, peers/school violence, intimate partner violence, and sexual violence. Mental health outcomes included: depression, panic attacks, heavy alcohol use, eating problems, suicidal ideation and attempts, and self-evaluation of health. Both males and females reported similar rates of experienced and witnessed family violence as well as of intimate partner violence, to which women reacted more negatively than men. Peers/school violence was more common among men. Sexual violence was more common and more severe among females. Among mental health effects, panic attacks were more common among females, and alcohol problems among males. We considered the cumulative impact of violence, calculating the odds ratios (ORs) for reporting each health outcome after having experienced zero, one, two, three or four/five types of violence. For both men and women, the more violence, the higher the risk of health problems; however, the real jump in the risk of mental suffering occurred between three and four /five types of violence, the latter category more often female. Moreover, we obtained ORs for the relationships between health outcome and each type of violence, after adjustment for the other types of violence. For experienced and witnessed family violence, the health impact was similar for males and females; for intimate partner violence, sexual violence, and peer/school violence it was larger for females. In the literature, women report more violence-related health problems than men. Results of the present study imply that the excess health problems among women may result from more intense or more frequent experiences of violence.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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