Important research into domestic violence strengthens OHS context

It is useful to consider corporate wellness and mental wellbeing programs in the context of work-related suicides.  By considering what many consider a worst-case scenario, the effectiveness of these programs can be tested.  The increased attention on domestic violence and its relationship to work over the last few years in Australia can play a similar role. New research on “intimate partner violence” provides mental health scenarios for which safety professionals need to be prepared.

According to a media release from the University of Newcastle, longitudinal research by Professor Deborah Loxton and others has shown that

“Women who experience intimate partner violence have significant, long-term physical and mental health problems…”

The media release also said that

“Overall, women’s mental health steadily improved with age, but women who experienced abuse had consistently worse mental health than those who had not.”

One result of the research has been the call for public policy and interventions that are much longer than the political election cycle.  In the occupational health and safety (OHS) context, many mental health and wellbeing programs seem to assume that domestic violence is currently occurring and workers may need active intervention when Loxton’s research provides an additional role for such programs.

In many ways, the mental health reality uncovered by Loxton, Xenia Dolja-Gore, Amy Anderson and Natalie Townsend, adds considerable weight to programs designed to achieve sustainable long-term improvements in organisational culture and safety.  It is possible to respond promptly to incidents but the research is less about incidents and more about the mental, and related physical, damage from violent acts many years ago. Loxton refers to this perspective in the media release

“Professor Loxton said interventions and support available to women are frequently for the immediate crisis period, with many people believing that ‘if she leaves, then she’ll be alright’.

“Unfortunately, the reality for one in four Australian women is that the physical and mental health impacts of domestic violence could last a lifetime,” “

A major attraction with this research is that it studied three generations of women over a 16 year period allowing a unique comparison of physical and mental effects.  The research was designed to identify the effects rather than solutions but Loxton does offer this opportunity:

“From our other ongoing research, we know social support can be very helpful – women with social support, like accessible psychological care or support networks, do better in the long-term.”

OHS mental health strategies need to be compatible with the services available outside of the workplace and Loxton’s comment above illustrates the importance of this collaboration and cooperation.

The report, “Intimate partner violence adversely impacts health over 16 years and across generations: A longitudinal study” is publicly available and should be part of the evidence libraries used to strengthen the recommendations of safety professionals.

Kevin Jones

Categories evidence, mental-health, OHS, psychosocial, research, risk, safety, safety culture, stress, Uncategorized, violence, wellness

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