Link between mental health problems in men and domestic abuse has been identified in new study

Published on June 24, 2015

The study has been published in the BMJ Open Medical journal and it was carried out to look into the link between those men who have been to their GP for mental health problems or substance abuse with those who have been subjected to domestic abuse.

Throughout the South West, questionnaires were distributed to 16 GP practices and more than 1300 men over the age of 18 completed them. Those who took part were asked if they had ever experienced the four main negative behaviours that are associated with domestic abuse. These are being physically hurt, feeling frightened, forced sex or having to ask permission from a partner to the point where they are scared because of the consequences they may face for not asking in the first place.

Out of the 1,368 men who were involved in the survey, almost 23% of them had experienced at least one of the behaviours that were associated to domestic violence and abusive relationships.

There was admittance by almost 17% of those involved that they had been perpetrators of those behaviours.

It was found that the symptoms of anxiety and depression were likely in those who had these experiences. For those who admitted to these behaviours it was likely that anxiety was between 3-5 times more likely. They also concluded that there was no link between excessive consumption of alcohol or cannabis use and domestic violence.

It was surmised from the report that doctors should now be asking patients who have mental health problems whether they have experienced domestic abuse. The survey also aimed at finding out about the link between those who had suffered domestic abuse and the relationship that they have with their victims or those who carried out the abuse.

Often, the impact that these negative behaviours have among men is often not noticed by GPs. There is hope the study will divert the attention to this problem which is relatively hidden whilst also offering a starting point for training GPs in how to find and act upon these issues in men who are experiencing or perpetrating domestic violence and abuse.

Professor Marianne Hester OBE, who is head of the Centre for Gender and Violence Research at Bristol’s School for Policy Studies, lead the study and she highlighted that often, the focus on domestic violence is aimed at women, which means that there is a lack of research on men as victims and perpetrators. The findings of the study are now important as they show GPs that those men who suffer with anxiety and depression should be questions about domestic violence and abuse as there is a link.

The findings line up with previous studies which also showed that mental health problems are more common in those men who have experienced domestic violence.

The Author

Kerry Smith is the Head of Family law at K J Smith Solicitors. For more information, please visit