People With Disabilities More Likely to Become Victims of Violence

Those with emotional disorders at highest risk, British study found

WEDNESDAY, Feb. 20 (HealthDay News) -- People with disabilities are at greater risk of being the victims of violence, particularly if they have a mental illness-related disability, according to a new study.

In addition, violence is twice as likely to lead to emotional problems among disabled people than in those who do not have disabilities, according to British researchers whose study appeared Feb. 20 in the journal PLoS ONE.

These findings suggest that doctors should be aware of the risks of both domestic and nondomestic violence among their disabled patients, as well as their increased risk for emotional difficulties, the researchers said in a journal news release.

The researchers, from University College London and King's College London, examined information compiled in the 2009-2010 British Crime Survey to estimate the likelihood that a noninstitutionalized person with physical or mental disabilities would suffer physical, sexual, domestic or nondomestic violence.

The study revealed that the odds of being a victim of violence in the past year were three times higher for those with a mental-illness-related disability and twice as high for those with a physical disability. The odds were similarly increased for physical and sexual violence, and for domestic and nondomestic violence.

U.K. violence risk and prevalence are similar to that of other countries, including the United States, the researchers said. Violence is a leading cause of illness and injury among disabled people, the release noted.

"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," said study author Hind Khalifeh and colleagues.

Although the study tied disability to risk for experiencing violence, it did not establish a cause-and-effect relationship.

More information

The World Health Organization provides more information on violence against the disabled.

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