International Journal of Behavioral Medicine

, Volume 20, Issue 1, pp 131–139 | Cite as

Intimate Partner Violence and Mental Health Effects: A Population-Based Study among Married Women in Karachi, Pakistan

  • Tazeen S. AliEmail author
  • Ingrid Mogren
  • Gunilla Krantz



Intimate partner violence (IPV) is recognized all over the world for its association with mental health problems in women. In Pakistan, such violence occurs commonly, but detailed information on mental health effects is scarce. The purpose of this study is to focused on married couples in urban Karachi to investigate mental health effects associated with physical, sexual and psychological violence perpetrated by husbands towards wives. Disclosure rates and health care-seeking behaviour were also investigated.


This cross-sectional study involved 759 women between the ages of 25 and 60 years, selected using a multi-stage random sampling technique. The women were interviewed by trained community midwives using a structured questionnaire.


In the total population of women, mental symptoms were prevalent. Women subjected to any form of violence reported, however, considerably poorer mental health than unexposed women. A statistically significant difference for almost all of the studied health parameters persisted even after controlling for socio-demographic factors. The strongest associations were found for suicidal thoughts and physical violence (OR 4.41; 3.18–6.12), sexual abuse (OR 4.39; 3.17–6.07) and psychological abuse (OR 5.17; 3.28–8.15). The interviews revealed that only 27% of the women subjected to violence had disclosed this to anyone, in most cases to their parents.


The findings in this study highlight that the violence women have to face contributes to the development of multiple forms of psychological stress and serious mental health problems. Women’s restrictive life circumstances seriously hamper women’s empowerment. Reliable health surveillance system and health care services are needed to serve abused women. Policy initiatives focused on IPV and gender inequality in Pakistan should be initiated.


Intimate partner violence Domestic violence Mental health effects Depression Suicidal thoughts Coping 



This study was made possible by a grant from STINT (The Swedish Foundation for International Cooperation in Research and Higher Education) and by support from the Swedish Institute. This study has also been supported by the School of Nursing and the Community Health Department at Aga Khan University, Karachi, Pakistan. The Department of Social Medicine at Gothenburg University and the Department of Public Health Sciences, Division of Global Health (IHCAR), Karolinska Institute, Stockholm, Sweden gave support during the manuscript analysis and preparation.

The authors want to thank HANDS, a non-governmental organisation that supported and facilitated the data collection and allowed the use of their surveillances system. We also want to acknowledge PAWLA (Pakistan Women Lawyers' Association) and the Women’s Social Welfare Department for their strong support in the training of the data collectors. Last but not least, we want to thank the women who participated for their trust and confidence in this study.

Disclosure of interest

The authors clarify that there is no financial relationship with the organization that sponsored the research.

Authors’ contributions

The first and last authors are responsible for the conception and design, acquisition of data, analysis and interpretation of data, drafting the article or revising it critically for important intellectual content and final approval of the version to be published. The second author’s contribution is the interpretation of data, revising it critically for important intellectual content and final approval of the version to be published.


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Copyright information

© International Society of Behavioral Medicine 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Tazeen S. Ali
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • Ingrid Mogren
    • 3
  • Gunilla Krantz
    • 4
  1. 1.School of Nursing and Department of Community Health SciencesAga Khan UniversityKarachiPakistan
  2. 2.Department of Public Health Sciences, Division of Global Health (IHCAR)Karolinska InstitutetStockholmSweden
  3. 3.Department of Clinical Science, Obstetrics and GynecologyUmeå UniversityUmeåSweden
  4. 4.Department of Community Medicine and Public Health/Social Medicine, The Sahlgrenska AcademyUniversity of GothenburgGothenburgSweden

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