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J Gen Intern Med. 2007 Dec;22(12):1668-73. Epub 2007 Oct 6.

Somatic symptoms and diseases are more common in women exposed to violence.

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  • 1Division of Mental Health, Norwegian Institute of Public Health, Oslo, Norway.



Exposure to violence has been shown to have an impact on somatic health. However, our knowledge about the possible dose-response relationship between frequency of violence exposure and health is still limited.


To study the associations between recent and repetitive exposure to violence and presence of somatic symptoms and diseases in women.


Cross-sectional, community-based, self-reporting survey.


Two thousand seven hundred thirty women aged 18-40 years (mean age 30.5 years).


The somatic symptom scale derived from the Primary Care Evaluation of Mental Disorders was used to obtain information on the presence of somatization. In addition, we asked about the presence of 11 diseases or organ-specific diseases. Exposure to violence was measured by the Abuse Assessment Screen.


Eighteen percent (486/2,730) of women surveyed reported exposure to physical violence. Three percent (94/2,730) had been forced into sexual intercourse as an adult. All somatic symptoms, and several diseases, were significantly more common in women exposed to physical and/or sexual violence as compared to nonexposed women. Women exposed to 3 or more violent episodes in the past 12 months reported a presence of 4.8 somatic symptoms and 1.2 diseases (mean) as compared to 1.8 symptoms and 0.5 diseases in nonexposed women. Women with exposure to both physical and sexual violence reported 6.0 symptoms and 1.5 diseases. The impact of violence on somatic symptoms and diseases remained after controlling for depression and sociodemographic factors.


Violence was associated with the presence of somatic symptoms and diseases. The more a woman is exposed to violence, the higher the number of somatic symptoms and diseases reported is.

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