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GPs urged to ask male patients with anxiety or depression about domestic violence

GPs should ask male patients with anxiety or depression about domestic violence, researchers have suggested.

A new study carried out in GP surgeries in the South-West of England showed that men visiting their GP with these mental health problems were more likely to be victims or perpetrators of domestic violence and abuse, and the conditions could therefore ‘serve as an important indicator to clinicians’.

Researchers at the University of Bristol wanted to find out whether there is a link between men who have experienced or carried out domestic violence and abuse and men with mental health problems, who are binge drinkers or cannabis users respectively.

The study, based on a survey of 1,368 men in 16 GP practices, askied whether they had experienced or carried out any of four negative behaviours linked to domestic violence and concluded that ‘all negative behaviours were associated with a twofold to threefold increased odds of anxiety and depression symptoms in men experiencing or perpetrating negative behaviours or both’.

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No associations with problematic drinking were found with the behaviours, which included feeling frightened, being physically hurt, being forced to have sex or having to ask a partner for permission before doing things.

The report, published in BMJ Open, concluded: ‘Domestic violence and abuse is experienced or perpetrated by a large minority of men presenting to general practice, and these men were more likely to have current symptoms of depression and anxiety. Presentation of anxiety or depression to clinicians may be an indicator of male experience or perpetration of domestic violence and abuse victimisation.’

Lead study author Professor Marianne Hester, head of the Centre for Gender and Violence Research at Bristol’s School for Policy Studies, said: ‘The findings from this study are important as they suggest that when men present to GPs with anxiety or depression, they should be asked about domestic violence and abuse as there is a higher likelihood that they will be victims or perpetrators.

‘The findings are consistent with previous studies, which found that mental health problems are more common in men who either perpetrate or experience domestic violence and abuse, and serve as an important indicator to clinicians.’

The news comes after the Department of Health, Public Health England and the RCGP recently said GPs should play a key role in preventing domestic abuse because of their ‘unique’ position of speaking to women and families over a long period of time.


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