Journal of Family Violence

, Volume 25, Issue 4, pp 369–382 | Cite as

Domestic Violence Against Women: Systematic Review of Prevalence Studies

  • Samia Alhabib
  • Ula Nur
  • Roger Jones
Original Article


To systematically review the worldwide evidence on the prevalence of domestic violence against women, to evaluate the quality of studies, and to account for variation in prevalence between studies, using consistent definitions and explicit, rigorous methods. Systematic review of prevalence studies on domestic violence against women. Literature searches of 6 databases were undertaken for the period 1995 to 2006. Medline, Embase, Cinahl, ASSIA, ISI, and International Bibliography of the Social Sciences were searched, supplemented by hand searching of the reference lists from studies retrieved and specialized interdisciplinary journals on violence. A total of 134 studies in English on the prevalence of domestic violence against women, including women aged 18 to 65 years, but excluding women with specific disabilities or diseases, containing primary, empirical research data, were included in the systematic review. Studies were scored on eight pre-determined criteria and stratified according to the total quality score. The majority of the sudies were conducted in North America (41%), followed by Europe (20%). 56% of studies were population-based, and 17% were carried out either in primary or community health care settings. There was considerable heterogeneity both between and within geographical locations, health care settings, and study quality The prevalence of lifetime domestic violence varies from 1.9% in Washington, US, to 70% in Hispanic Latinas in Southeast US. Only 12% scored a maximum of 8 on our quality criteria, with 27% studies scored 7, and 17% scored 6. The mean lifetime prevalence of all types of violence was found to be highest in studies conducted in psychiatric and obstetric/gynecology clinics. Results of this review emphasize that violence against women has reached epidemic proportions in many societies. Accurate measurement of the prevalence of domestic violence remains problematic and further culturally sensitive research is required to develop more effective preventive policies and programs.


Domestic violence Women Prevalence Review 



We would like to acknowledge the advice given by Dr. Kalwant Sidhu, Director of the MSc Programme at King’s College London, Martin Hewitt, who provided advice on literature searching, Dr. Paul Seed, who provided statistical advice, Prof. Gene Feder and Prof. Tony Ades for commenting on the paper before submission for publication and to Jeremy Nagle in the British Library, who helped to track down references.


Samia Alhabib had the original idea for the study which was refined by Roger Jones. Data collection, critical appraisal of studies and general data analysis were undertaken by Samia Alhabib. Meta-analysis and sensitivity analysis were undertaken by Ula Nur. Samia Alhabib and Roger Jones drafted and finalized the manuscript.

Potential Conflict of Interest

None declared.

Ethics Approval

Not required.




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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Academic Unit of Primary Health CareUniversity of BristolBristolUK
  2. 2.Cancer Statistics-Cancer Research UKLondon School of Hygiene and Tropical MedicineLondonUK
  3. 3.Department of General Practice & Primary CareKing’s College LondonLondonUK

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