New study finds link between mental health problems in men and domestic violence

Published: 28th May 2015

The University of Bristol has carried out a study into the link between men being victims of or committing domestic abuse with mental health problems such as anxiety and depression. The study, published in the BMJ Open medical journal, was produced to explore the relationship between men who have visited their GP for mental health problems or substance abuse with men that have experienced domestic abuse.

Questionnaires were distributed across 16 GP practices in the South West, and filled in by more than 1300 men from the age of 18. The participants in the survey were asked whether they had experienced the four main negative behaviours that are majorly linked to domestic abuse such as being physically hurt, feeling frightened, forced sex, or having to ask permission from a partner (for example, to go to work, shopping, or to a social event that goes beyond being considerate) to the point of being frightened due to consequences of not asking at all.

Of the 1,368 men that took part in the survey, 22.7 percent of them had experienced a minimum of one of the four behaviours that were linked to domestic violence and abusive relationships. Almost 17 percent of those who took part had admitted perpetration of the behaviours.

Researchers found that those who had such experiences were more likely to have symptoms of anxiety and depression. In fact, anxiety was between three and five times more likely among admitted perpetrators of such behaviour. They also found that there was no solid link between excessive alcohol consumption or cannabis use and domestic violence.

The report has highlighted the fact that doctors should be asking patients that have mental health problems about any experiences with domestic abuse. The survey also included questions about those who have suffered domestic abuse and the relationships with their victims or perpetrators; detailing how often these events occurred and the significance.

Professor Gene Feder from Bristol's School for Social and Community Medicine said, "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."

The study was led by Head of the Centre for Gender and Violence Research at Bristol’s School for Policy Studies, Professor Marianne Hester OBE who stated, "Research on domestic violence and abuse has largely focused on women and there is a lack of research on men, both as victims and perpetrators. The findings from this study are important as they suggest that when men present to GPs with anxiety or depression, they should be asked about domestic violence and abuse as there is a higher likelihood that they will be victims or perpetrators."

"The findings are consistent with previous studies, which found that mental health problems are more common in men who either perpetrate or experience domestic violence and abuse, and serve as an important indicator to clinicians."

In conclusion to the report, the results highlight there is a high number of men who show symptoms of anxiety and depression and who could be the ones victimised or committing domestic abuse. The full results of the study can be found here.

If you are experiencing any forms of domestic violence or you have had any allegations made against you then K J Smith Solicitors are here to help. Our experience team of family law professionals can advise on all matters relating to domestic violence and we are here to act on your behalf to protect you and your family. For more information or to arrange a free 45 minute consultation, please contact K J Smith Solicitors today on 01491 630000 (Henley on Thames), 020 7070 0330 (London), 0118 418 1000 (Reading), 01753 325000 (Windsor) or 01256 584000 (Basingstoke) or email

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