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Mortality risk associated with physical and verbal abuse in women aged 50 to 79.

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To investigate whether midlife and older women who reported prior-year physical abuse, verbal abuse, or both abuse types had higher mortality risk than peers who did not report prior-year abuse.


Retrospective analysis.




One hundred sixty-thousand six hundred seventy-six community-dwelling women ages 50 to 79 at baseline enrolled in one of two major Women's Health Initiative (WHI) study components who responded to baseline abuse questions. Observational study enrollment was N=93,676 (1994-1998; 90 months average follow-up). Clinical trial enrollment was N=68,132 (1993-1998; 96 months average follow-up).


Total mortality was measured from 1993 to 2005 using all available data sources. Blinded physician adjudicators measured cause-specific mortality. Ninety-six percent of death records were adjudicated.


Prior-year self-reported abuse prevalence was 11.3%. Women who reported physical abuse had the highest age-adjusted mortality rate, followed by women who reported both abuse types. Abuse independently predicted mortality risk after controlling for age, education, ethnicity, and WHI component. High mortality risk remained for physically abused women (hazard ratio (HR)=1.54, 95% confidence interval (CI)=1.09-2.18) after adjusting for demographic and health-related factors. Further adjustment for psychosocial variables diminished this association (HR=1.40, 95% CI=0.93-2.11), but high risk remained.


Community-dwelling middle-aged and older women who reported prior-year physical, verbal, or both types of abuse had significantly higher adjusted mortality risk than women who did not report abuse. These findings highlight the need for longitudinal research into prevention of abuse in later life and accompanying excess mortality and emphasize the importance of abuse prevention in later life.

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