Financial stress has been linked with severe domestic abuse by researchers at the University of Iowa (UI). However, the research team remains uncertain if one leads to another.

The study, published online on March 1 in the journal Injury Epidemiology, involved 11,499 participants. It was found out that thirty-two percent of men inflicted injury to their partner whereas only 21 percent of women caused injury. Moreover, women are more likely to commit verbal and physical abuse at their partners. About 11.4 percent of women and only 6.7 percent of men made threats and committed minor physical abuse.

To get to this data, the researchers inquired about the participant’s violent acts frequency, from never to more than 20 times in the last year as well as their financial stressors in the past 12 months which included not paying their utilities, housing, food shortage, utilities being turned off and experiencing eviction.

financial stress

UI researchers find an association between financials stress and severe domestic abuse, but the discovery doesn’t prove one leads to the other. Credit: The University of Iowa

More women (27.7 percent) claim to have experienced financial stressors than men (22.9 percent). About 17.6 percent of women were unable to pay their utilities whereas 10.4 percent got their phone service disconnected and 14 percent experienced food insecurity. Meanwhile, only 12.7 percent of the men were unable to pay their utilities, 7.8 percent of men got their phone service disconnected and only 9.9 percent experienced food insecurity.

On the other hand, 8.8 percent of women committed severe physical abuse, higher than the 3.4 percent of men. The researchers assert that this does not automatically suggest that women are more likely to respond to financial stressors with violence. Nevertheless, 92.9 percent of men and 86.7 percent of women did not do any form of violence the year before the study.

The researchers admit that they cannot give advice or any solutions to this problem. They cannot tell if the financial stressor occurred before the violent act or if the financial stressor only worsened the violent relationship.

“What we don’t know yet is whether financial stress makes a violent couple more violent, or is financial stress enough of a disruption in a relationship that violence begins?” adds study author Corinne Peek-Asa, the director of the Injury Prevention Research Centre at the university’s College of Health. “Both are plausible.”

They suggest more studies. Since these stressors can also create health problems, they advice doctors to consider financial stressors such as food insecurity, unpaid bills, and eviction to further assess their patient’s health status.