Press release

Quarter of the population have experience of violence and abuse

Findings from a study presented by NatCen Social Research.


A study presented at Public Health England’s inaugural annual conference by NatCen Social Research found that three-quarters of the English population had relatively little experience of violence and abuse but that the remaining quarter consisted of people who had some level of experience of violence and abuse, measured in 5 distinct categories of exposure.

People who have experienced extensive sexual and physical abuse in their lives are:

  • 5 times more likely to have a common mental disorder like clinical anxiety or depression, and
  • 15 times more likely to have made a suicide attempt

More than half of people with experience of extensive violence and abuse have self-harmed.

Each group differed in terms of their socio-economic circumstances - with experience of extensive violence and abuse more common in more disadvantaged neighbourhoods - but the data showed that violence and abuse were experienced by people across all socioeconomic groups.

Sally McManus, Research Director, NatCen Social Research said:

Many events in life are linked with poor mental health but few - if any - have associations as strong as those we see for violence and abuse.

Mental health service providers need to be able to sensitively identify survivors. Violence and abuse and poor mental health are core business for mental health services, and are of huge relevance to the wider public health agenda.

Professor Kevin Fenton, Director of Health and Wellbeing at Public Health England said:

This report reminds us about a widely prevalent but hidden problem in our society that has great impact on the mental health and wellbeing of the population. We are working across the public health system to embed good practice on recognising, preventing and signposting people who are experiencing violence to the most appropriate services.


Notes to Editors

  1. Public Health England’s mission is to protect and improve the nation’s health and to address inequalities through working with national and local government, the NHS, industry and the voluntary and community sector. Public Health England is an operationally autonomous executive agency of the Department of Health. Follow us on Twitter @PHE_uk

  2. Public Health England’s Annual Conference is being held at the University of Warwick from 10 to 11 September 2013. For more information please visit the PHE conference website and follow the conference on Twitter with the hashtag #PHE2013

  3. These findings are part of ongoing research into effective mental health service responses to the long-term consequences of violence and abuse (the REVA study); conducted by NatCen Social Research, DMSS Research and the Child and Women Abuse Studies Unit at London Metropolitan University. This is an independent piece of work commissioned and funded by the Policy Research Programme in the Department of Health. Views expressed are not necessarily those of the Department.

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Published 11 September 2013