Violence, Mental Illness and Women
Violence is a major public health problem for American women. More than 4.5 million women are victims of violence each year. Of these women, nearly two of every three are attacked by a relative or someone they know. Women are 6 times more likely to be abused by someone they know than are men and 10 times more likely to be victims of sexual assault. It is estimated that 10 to 20 percent (or one to two young women in 10) are the victims of sexual abuse.
In 1997, homicide was the second leading cause of death among women ages 15 to 24 and the sixth leading cause of death among women ages 25 to 44. It is the leading cause of occupational deaths in women.
Researchers are increasingly concerned that violence may also be an important hidden cause of maternal mortality. The prevalence of violence during pregnancy appears to range from 4 percent to 8 percent. Applying these percentages to the 3.9 million U.S. women who delivered live-born infants in 1995 yields the conclusion that 152,000 to 325,000 women experienced violence during their pregnancies. Thus, violence may be a more common problem for pregnant women than preeclampsia, gestational diabetes, or placenta previa.
One in 10 Americans experiences an episode of depression each year. Major depression and dysthymia (a less severe, more chronic form of depression) affect approximately twice as many women as men. An estimated 12 percent of women in the United States experience a major depression during their lifetimes, compared with 7 percent of men; and 4.2 percent of women have dysthymia.
Women are 2 to 3 times more likely to have certain types of anxiety disorders, including anxiety, panic, and phobic disorders. At least 90 percent of all cases of eating disorders occur in women. In addition, a high correlation appears to exist between eating disorders and depression and between eating disorders and substance abuse.
Untreated mental illness can be fatal. Suicide was the fifth leading cause of death among women ages 25 to 44 in 1994 and the fourth leading cause of death for young women ages 15 to 24. Women are more likely to attempt suicide than are men. However, women are far less likely to die from their attempt(s), largely because men are more likely to use a firearm.