The Prevalence and Incidence of Intimate Partner Violence in Older Women in Primary Care Practices

Document Type


Publication Date




Identify the incidence and prevalence of intimate partner violence (IPV) in women over 55 years of age in primary care offices.


Telephone survey conducted between March and June 2003 by trained female interviewers who gathered self-report information about health and abuse.


A total of 3,636 women over 55 years of age had at least 1 visit in the past 12 months to primary care offices affiliated with an academic center in Southwestern Ohio were contacted by phone; 995 were deemed competent and completed the interview.


Thirty-eight page instrument that explored health, history of psychological (controlling behavior and threat of physical harm), physical, and sexual abuse since age 55 years. Interviews lasted 20 to 45 min.

Main Results

The mean age was 69 years (SD 8.35). Physical abuse in intimate relationships was reported by 1.52% since age 55 years (prevalence) and 0.41% in the past year (incidence). Prevalence and incidence rates for sexual abuse were 2.14% and 1.12%, threat of physical harm 2.63% and 1.62%, respectively. Less than half of the victims told someone else about the abuse. The mean number of health conditions was 3.84 for victims and 3.21 for nonvictims (P<.055) with significantly larger percentages of IPV victims reporting problems with chronic pain and depression.


Physical and sexual abuse by an intimate partner does occur in women over 55 years, but rates are lower than those of younger women. Health care providers are reminded to think about IPV in older women and to ask about abuse as disclosure is rare.