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Open Access Research

Measuring the effect of intimate partner violence on health-related quality of life: a qualitative focus group study

Eve Wittenberg1*, Manisha Joshi2, Kristie A Thomas2 and Laura A McCloskey3

Author Affiliations

1 Heller School for Social Policy and Management, Brandeis University, Waltham, MA, USA

2 School of Social Policy and Practice, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA, USA

3 Merrill-Palmer Skillman Institute, Wayne State University, Detroit, MI, USA

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Health and Quality of Life Outcomes 2007, 5:67  doi:10.1186/1477-7525-5-67

Published: 19 December 2007

Abstract

Background

Health related quality of life (HRQOL) can be measured by a wide range of instruments, many of which have been designed for specific conditions or uses. "Preference-based" measures assess the value individuals place on health, and are included in economic evaluations of treatments and interventions (such as cost effectiveness analysis). As economic evaluation becomes more common, it is important to assess the applicability of preference-based health related quality of life (HRQOL) measures to public health issues. This study investigated the usefulness of such instruments in the context of intimate partner violence (IPV), a public health concern that that can seriously affect quality of life.

Methods

The study consisted of focus groups with abused women to determine the aspects of life affected by IPV, and an analysis of existing HRQOL measures. Eight focus groups (n = 40) were conducted in which participants discussed the domains of health affected by IPV. Results were content analyzed and compared with the domains of health included in four commonly-used, preference-based HRQOL measures.

Results

The average focus group participant was 43 years old, unemployed, African American, with 3 children. Domains of health reported to be affected by IPV included physical functioning, emotional and psychological functioning, social functioning and children's functioning. Psychological health was the most severely affected domain. The Short Form 36, the Health Utilities Index, the EuroQol 5D, and the Quality of Well-being Scale were found to vary in the degree to which they include domains of health important in IPV. Psychological health is included to a limited extent, and the spill-over effect of a condition on other family members, including children, is not included at all.

Conclusion

Emotional and psychological health plays an important role in the overall HRQOL of abused women but is relatively underemphasized in preference-based HRQOL measures. This may lead to an underestimation of the impact of partner violence on HRQOL when using these measures and in economic evaluations that rely thereon. Holistic measurement approaches or expanded measures that capture the far-reaching effects of IPV on HRQOL may be needed to accurately measure the effect of this condition on women's health.