Study: history of violence leads to poor overall health for women

Researchers recently discovered older African-American women with a history of ongoing violence in their lives are more prone to suffer from poor overall health than males.

Anuradha Paranjape’s findings show violence can predispose older women to health problems (Jake Siemiarowski/TTN).

“Typically, younger women are healthier,” said assistant professor of medicine Anuradha Paranjape. “I’m looking at a group that is more vulnerable to health problems.”

Paranjape said violence is what makes the women more vulnerable. She chose to focus on African-American women primarily because they make up a significant portion of the patients she treats.

Paranjape and her team of researchers surveyed 158 of their female African-American patients, questioning them on their levels of exposure to physical violence as a result of financial troubles, sexual abuse, emotional abuse and neglect.

Researchers were then able to measure the level of family violence and overall mental and physical health their patients sustained based on the participants’ ages, races and genders. This demographic, researchers showed, is a triple threat to older African-American women’s health.

Women who reported longer intervals of exposure to family violence had worse overall health problems than those who reported low levels of exposure to abuse. And while Paranjape recognizes older women often outlive their male counterparts, she discovered the same women tend to have an overall worse health status. Depression, anxiety and chronic pain are among the long-term effects Paranjape saw in her patients.

“All women are affected,” Paranjape said, “but the problem of family violence as it affects older women has gone under-recognized.”

A continuation of the study has already been put into effect, examining how the same women suffering from the long-term effects of abuse have learned to cope with their symptoms. Social support availability, levels of spirituality and community outreach are among the coping methods being studied.
Paranjape said it may be too late to stop the violence these women endured, but it is never too late to offer them support.

“Realize that physicians are being trained to recognize the effects of violence, but they may not know how to ask,” Paranjape said. “Women need to know there are resources out there, and they’re not alone.”

Kylee Messner can be reached at

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