Portugal leads study into domestic violence

A pioneering study aiming to evaluate the effects of domestic violence on mental and physical health is being carried out in Portugal.

The European Union million euro project, involving eight countries, will be coordinated by a team from the University of Porto’s Faculty of Medicine.

“A black eye or a broken arm can be the visible marks of domestic violence, but what about the rest, the less visible scars,” says Dr Henrique Barros, who is coordinating the European Commission-funded study.

The team aims to research the more subtle effects of abuse related to domestic violence, such as anxiety, depression, lack of self confidence, and other symptoms.

“There has never been any precise study on the kinds of psychological and mental illnesses caused by domestic psychological bullying,” said Dr Barros.

The study should reveal in qualitative terms the frequency of the problem in various European countries and enable the researchers to make comparisons in order to get a better understanding of different types of domestic violence, including violence against men and also within homosexual relationships.

Dr Henrique Barros expects to find a high incidence of domestic violence among the young, including more men suffering from physical and mental bullying within relationships.

The study will be based on research and interviews with 800 people in each of the eight countries – Portugal, Sweden, Germany, the United Kingdom, Belgium, Spain, Greece and Hungary.

“At the end of the day, we want to not only collect statistics in order to improve health issues but also use those statistics as a basis to change laws in each of the countries involved,” said Dr Barros.

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