Use and efficacy of Complementary and Alternative Medicine for victims of intimate partner abuse

What you need to know:

No studies measuring the level of Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM) use amongst victims of intimate partner abuse (IPA) victims were identified. Three studies were found that assessed the effect of CAM on the mental health of this population, with two looking at yogic breathing, and one assessing music therapy. All studies showed some beneficial effects; however, each had a small sample, brief intervention period, and no follow-up measurement and were considered to be at high risk of bias.

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What this research is about:

IPA is a widespread and serious public health problem. Despite its substantial mental health burden, findings indicate that consultation with mental health services amongst victims is sub-optimal, and suggest a potentially important role for CAM as an alternate source of healing. However, no systematic review has examined the use, or effectiveness, of CAM amongst this population. The aim of this review was to determine the extent to which victims of IPA use CAM, and to examine the effects of CAM on their mental health.

What did the researchers do:

A systematic review was conducted, with Medline, Scopus, and Web of Science searched for (i) studies measuring the extent to which victims of IPA use CAM and (ii) the effects of CAM on their mental health. No language, publication date, or publication status restrictions were imposed. One author extracted data based on predefined selection criteria. Risk of bias was assessed using the Cochrane Collaboration tool.

What did the research find:

The literature search provided a total of 160 citations, 47 of which were duplicates. Of these, two studies met the selection criteria concerning CAM effectiveness, while another effectiveness study was identified by checking the reference lists of these papers. No studies measuring the level of CAM use amongst IPA victims were identified. Of the three studies assessing CAM effectiveness, two looked at yogic breathing, while one assessed the effect of music therapy. All three studies showed some beneficial effects; however, each had a small sample, brief intervention period, and no follow-up measurement and were considered to be at high risk of bias.

How can you use this research:

The review highlights the lack of research examining the use and efficacy of CAM for victims of IPA. Findings from the studies suggest that CAM, specifically music therapy and yogic breathing, may be beneficial to people who have experienced IPA, however methodological limitations mean that these results should be interpreted with caution. It is important that future research measures the uptake of CAM amongst this population, and that more rigorous and methodologically-sound investigations of the effects of CAM are conducted. This work should include larger sample sizes, longer interventions and extended follow-up periods.

Keywords: Complementary and alternative medicine; systematic review; intimate partner abuse; violence; women’s health

Contact person: Luke Duffy – Luke.Duffy@newcastle.edu.au

Citation: Duffy L, Adams J, Sibbritt D, Loxton D. Complementary and alternative medicine for victims of intimate partner abuse: A systematic review of use and efficacy. Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, 2014, 963967.

Young women becoming more active, and more stressed

Young Australian women are fatter, fitter and more fraught today than they were in the mid-’90s, according to the Australian Longitudinal Study on Women’s Health researchers.

The 17-year study, led by the University of Newcastle’s Professor Julie Byles and University of Queensland’s Professor Gita Mishra, found that 70 per cent of women aged between 18 and 23 in 2010 met Australian guidelines for physical activity, compared with 59 per cent in 1996.

Professor Mishra said that while this finding was encouraging, the percentage of overweight and obese young women was increasing.

“In 2013, 33 per cent of the young women surveyed were overweight or obese, compared with 20 per cent in 1996,” she said.

Professor Julie Byles said researchers also found that the prevalence of stress in this age group was higher than in the previous generation of young women surveyed in 1996. She said about half the young women surveyed said they had experienced high or very high psychological stress in the past year.

“The rate was even higher, 55 per cent, for women aged between 18 and 20 years, which probably reflects the stressful transition period between adolescence and young adulthood,” Professor Byles said. “Worryingly, we also found that 59 per cent of these young women had experienced suicidal thoughts in the past year, while 45 per cent had engaged in self-harming behaviour.”

Other notable findings in the report titled Health and wellbeing of women aged 18 to 23 in 2013 and 1996:Findings from the Australian Longitudinal Study on Women’s Health include:

Physical health: More than one in five young women reported frequent severe tiredness, back pain, headache or period pain, while one in four reported trouble sleeping – double the incidence reported in 1996. About one in three young women had low iron levels, and one in 25 young women had asthma.

Smoking: From 1996 to 2013, the percentage of women aged 18 to 23 who had never smoked increased from 53 per cent to 63 per cent, while there was also a substantial decline in the percentage of current smokers from one in three (32 per cent) to less than one in five (19 per cent).

Drinking: In 2013, one in four young women (26 per cent) drank alcohol weekly or more frequently (compared with 29 per cent in 1996). There was little change in drinking patterns since the 1996 survey.

Violence: One in five young women had experienced physical or sexual violence in the past 12 months while 56 per cent had experienced either form of violence at some point in their lives.

Bullying: One in five young women said they were bullied in the past 12 months while 70 per cent had been bullied at some point in their lives.

Intimate partner violence: The percentage of women who had been in a violent relationship had increased to 13 per cent in 2013, up from 11 per cent in 1996.

Impact of education: Women with less than a year 12 education fared worse in almost all categories surveyed – reporting poorer mental health; higher incidence of being bullied; more likely to have experienced intimate partner violence; more likely to have not used contraception and been pregnant at some stage; less likely to have received the Human Papillomavirus (HPV) vaccination.