Disabled at greater risk of violence and subsequent mental ill-health

20 February 2013

Quad

People with disabilities are at a greater risk of being the victims of violence and of suffering mental ill health when victimised, according to research published today in the open access journal PLOS ONE.

The research, led by Dr Hind Khalifeh (UCL Brain Sciences) with colleagues from UCL and King’s College London, is the first to assess the extent to which people with disabilities experience different kinds of violence and the associated health and economic costs.

The authors analysed data from the 2009-2010 British Crime Survey to estimate the odds of a person with physical or mental disabilities experiencing physical, sexual, domestic or non-domestic violence. The survey did not include individuals with disabilities living in institutions.

On the whole, the authors found that, compared to those without any disability, the odds of being a victim of violence in the past year were three-fold higher for those with mental illness-related disability, and two-fold higher for those with physical disability.

The odds were similarly raised for physical and sexual violence, and for domestic and non-domestic violence.

If the risk for people with disability could be brought down to the same level as for those without disability there would be around 116,000 fewer disabled victims annually.

Dr Hind Khalifeh, UCL Brain Sciences

"Among people aged 16 to 59, the crude prevalence of being a victim of any violence in the past year was 9.6 per cent, 11.9 per cent and 20.1 per cent for people with no disability, physical disability and mental-illness related disability respectively," explains Dr Hind Khalifeh.

"Compared to those without disability, the odds of being a victim of violence in the past year were  two-fold higher for those with physical disability and three-fold higher for those with mental illness-related disability, after taking into account socio-demographic differences between the groups."

The analysis also revealed that victims with disability were twice as likely to experience emotional difficulties following violence than non-disabled victims.

"Our research shows the risks and consequences of domestic and non-domestic violence are raised in people with disability," says Dr Khalifeh. "This is most pronounced for people with mental illness, with one in five experiencing violence in the past year".

Across England and Wales in 2009, approximately 224,000 people with disabilities experienced violence.

"We estimate that if the risk for people with disability could be brought down to the same level as for those without disability (from a similar social and demographic profile), there would be around 116,000 fewer disabled victims annually," continues Dr Khalifeh. "This would result in an estimated annual saving of £1.51 billion."

The authors state that overall, the prevalence and risk of violence they estimated in their study is consistent with reports from other countries such as the US and Taiwan.

According to the authors, their research highlights the need for clinicians to be aware of the greater risks of domestic and non-domestic violence among patients with all disability types, and of the increased risk of emotional difficulties among disabled victims.

The study concludes: “Future research should evaluate the effectiveness of violence prevention programs in people with disability that address risk factors specific to this group, such as caregiver stress or communication barriers to disclosure.”

-Ends-

* The research team would like to acknowledge the Home Office Research, Development and Statistics Directorate, BMRB Social Research, UK Data Archive and Crown Copyright. The above parties bear no responsibility for the analysis or interpretation of British Crime Survey data presented in this study."


Media contact: David Weston


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