London: Female survivors of domestic abuse are at double the risk of developing long-term illnesses that cause widespread bodily pain and extreme tiredness, a new study suggests.
Published in the Journal of Interpersonal Violence, the research from Universities of Birmingham and Warwick in the UK shows that women who have experienced domestic abuse are almost twice as likely to develop fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) than those who have not.
Fibromyalgia causes pain all over the body, while CFS is an illness with a wide range of symptoms, most common of which is extreme tiredness. They are both long-term conditions.
"We have been aware that domestic abuse has significant negative effects for victims and their children. This and other related work by our team showing strong associations with several diseases suggests that the costs of abuse are even greater than understood previously," said Indian-origin researcher and study co-author Siddhartha Bandyopadhyay from the University of Birmingham.
"The higher incidence of long-term illnesses, such as chronic fatigue syndrome, for abused women implies the existence of an additional hidden cost to society that we need to understand better," Bandyopadhyay added.
The study, examined the general practitioner (GP) records dating between 1995 and 2017 of 18,547 women who had suffered domestic abuse, compared to 74,188 who had not.
They found the risk of developing fibromyalgia and CFS in women who have experienced domestic abuse was twice the rate of those who had no recorded experience by their GP, after taking into account factors which may influence the association.
The incidence rate ratio for developing fibromyalgia was 1.73 (1.36-2.22). The incidence rate ratio of developing CFS was 1.91 (1.11-3.33)
It comes after a previous study led by the University of Birmingham showed that UK domestic abuse victims are three times more likely to develop severe mental illnesses.
"Recent UK estimates suggest that 27.1 per cent of women have experienced some form of domestic abuse, with a large proportion of these cases expected to be women who have suffered violence at the hands of an intimate partner," said study researcher Joht Singh Chandan.
"Considering the prevalence of domestic abuse, and the fact that patients experiencing fibromyalgia and CFS often face delays in diagnosis due to a limited understanding generally of how these conditions are caused, it is important for clinicians to bear in mind that women who have survived abuse are at a greater risk of these conditions," Chandan added.
According to the study, survivors of domestic abuse can experience immense physiological and psychological stress.