Nursing Publications

Patterns of Medication Use among Women Survivors of Intimate Partner Violence

Document Type


Publication Date



Canadian Journal of Public Health





First Page


Last Page



Objective: Our objective was to describe patterns of medication use in a convenience sample of 309 women with a history of intimate partner violence (IPV) participating in a study of women's health after leaving an abusive partner (WHES).

Methods: Using data collected through interviews and health assessments, frequencies of past-month use of medications; abuse experienced, health problems and medical diagnoses; and selected demographics were calculated. Associations among abuse history, employment status, health problems, diagnoses, and medications were explored. Comparisons of rates of medication use in women in the WHES and the Canadian Community Health Survey (CCHS) 2.1 were calculated.

Findings: Almost half of participants were taking pain and/or psychotropic medications, with almost one third taking antidepressants. Child abuse history, adult sexual assault history and unemployment were associated with taking psychotropic medications. Overall rates of medication use were similar to those of Canadian women of similar age in the CCHS 2.1. However, women in the WHES were more likely to be taking antidepressants, anxiolytics and inhalants, and less likely to be taking oral contraceptives, over-the counter (OTC) pain relievers, and OTC cough and cold medications.

Conclusion: The pattern of medication use in women who have experienced IPV differs from that in the general population. The complex associations found among health problems, employment, diagnoses, and medication use highlight the need to consider treatment patterns within the context of the impact of lifetime abuse, economic survival, and parenting demands. Medication use must be understood as only one of a range of health interventions available to assist abused women to promote their health.

Find in your library