Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology

, Volume 47, Issue 9, pp 1527–1537 | Cite as

Patterns of depressive symptoms and antidepressant use among women survivors of intimate partner violence

  • Jinette Comeau
  • Lorraine Davies
Original Paper



One of the primary mental health responses of women experiencing intimate partner violence (IPV) is depression, yet little is known about the mental health and antidepressant use of women in the period after leaving an abusive partner. We investigate patterns of antidepressant use and depressive symptoms by various social indicators (parenting status, socioeconomic status, severity of abuse and disclosure of abuse). Second, we examine whether variation in antidepressant use is explained by higher rates of depression diagnoses and/or depressive symptoms, taking these social indicators into consideration.


We examine data from the Women’s Health Effects Study, a community sample of 309 Canadian women who have recently left an abusive partner.


Bivariate results reveal that over 80% of women with elevated depressive symptoms are without diagnosis and antidepressant medication. Multivariate analyses show that antidepressant use is predicted by an indicator of economic disadvantage, with women who receive social assistance or disability benefits being more likely to report elevated antidepressant use, controlling for both depressive symptoms and depression diagnoses.


Documenting and explaining depressive symptoms and antidepressant use among IPV survivors provides insight into one of many possible treatment options available to women with depression, and sheds light on potential health disparities among this subgroup of the population.


Antidepressant use Depression Depressive symptoms Intimate partner violence Social context 



This research was funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, New Emerging Team Grant #106054 and Institute of Gender and Health Operating Grant #15156. The authors would like to thank the women who have participated in the Women’s Health Effects Study. The authors are also grateful for the contributions provided by Marilyn Merritt-Gray, Judith Wuest, Marilyn Ford-Gilboe, William R. Avison, and Kim Shuey.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of SociologySocial Science Centre, The University of Western OntarioLondonCanada

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