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Iverson KM, Dardis CM, Cowlishaw S, Webermann AR, Shayani DR, Dichter ME, Mitchell KS, Mattocks KM, Gerber MR, Portnoy GR. Effects of Intimate Partner Violence During COVID-19 and Pandemic-Related Stress on the Mental and Physical Health of Women Veterans. Journal of general internal medicine. 2022 Sep 1; 37(Suppl 3):724-733.
BACKGROUND: Little is known about women veterans' intimate partner violence (IPV) experiences during the COVID-19 pandemic or the impacts of pandemic-related stress on their mental and physical health. OBJECTIVES: To identify IPV experiences among women veterans prior to and during the pandemic, pandemic-related stressors, and examine their respective contributions to mental and physical health. DESIGN: National sample of women veterans drawn from a larger web-based longitudinal study. Relationships between recent IPV and pandemic-related stressors were tested with linear regressions, controlling for pre-pandemic IPV and mental and physical health symptoms, demographic, and military-related covariates. PARTICIPANTS: One hundred forty-two women veterans (M = 58.8 years). MAIN MEASURES: We assessed IPV (CTS-2), PTSD (PCL-5), depression (CESD), anxiety (DASS-A), physical health (PHQ-15), and physical health-related quality of life (SF-12) prior to the pandemic (June 2016-December 2016/January 2017) and during the pandemic study period (March 2020-December 2020/January 2021). We assessed pandemic-related stressors (EPII) during the pandemic study period. KEY RESULTS: Over a third (38.7%) of participants experienced IPV during the pandemic study period (psychological: 35.9%, physical: 9.9%, sexual: 4.2%). Overall rates, frequency, and severity of IPV experience did not significantly differ between the pre-pandemic and pandemic study periods. Few participants tested positive for COVID-19 (4.2%); however, most participants reported experiencing pandemic-related stressors across life domains (e.g., social activities: 88%, physical health: 80.3%, emotional health: 68.3%). IPV during the pandemic and pandemic-related stressors were both associated with greater PTSD and depressive symptoms. Pandemic-related stressors were associated with worse anxiety and physical health symptoms. Neither IPV during the pandemic nor pandemic-related stressors were associated with physical health-related quality of life. CONCLUSIONS: IPV experiences during the pandemic were common among women veterans, as were pandemic-related stressors. Although IPV did not increase in the context of COVID-19, IPV experiences during the pandemic and pandemic-related stressors were linked with poorer mental and physical health.