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Published 20/05/2015

A study found male patients visiting their GP with anxiety or depression were more likely to be victims or perpetrators of domestic violence
A study found male patients visiting their GP with anxiety or depression were more likely to be victims or perpetrators of domestic violence

Doctors should ask men with mental health problems whether they have experienced or carried out domestic violence, researchers have said.

A study found male patients visiting their GP with anxiety or depression were more likely to be victims or perpetrators of domestic violence.

The research, by the University of Bristol and published in BMJ Open, involved 1,398 men aged 18 and over filling out a questionnaire at 16 GP practices in the south west.

Almost a quarter of the respondents said they had experienced at least one of four negative behaviours linked to domestic violence and abuse.

Men who used some form of negative behaviour towards their partners were three to five times more likely to report symptoms of anxiety than non-perpetrators.

Professor Marianne Hester OBE, head of the centre for gender and violence research at Bristol's School for Policy Studies, was lead author of the study.

"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," she said.

"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."

Participants were asked whether they had experienced or perpetrated any of the four negative behaviours linked to domestic violence and abuse.

These include feeling frightened, physically hurt, forced sex or having to ask for permission from a partner.

The survey then asked about experiences of these negative behaviours, followed by questions about their relationship with the perpetrator, frequency and escalation.

Questions were then asked about the perpetration of any of the four negative behaviours towards a current or former partner in the past 12 months.

In total, 309 men, or 22.7% of the 1,386 participants, experienced at least one of the four negative behaviours associated with domestic violence and abuse.

A total of 212, or 16.7%, of 1,294 of the participants, reported perpetrating these behaviours at least once.

Professor Gene Feder, co-author on the study, from the Centre for Academic Primary Care at 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."

Occurrence and impact of negative behaviour, including domestic violence and abuse, in men attending UK primary care health clinics: a cross-sectional survey is published in BMJ Open.

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