Domestic Violence Statistics: What Does Domestic Violence Cost?

Health care costs of domestic violence

Domestic violence statistics are sobering. The issue is often hidden from view, but it is a health care problem with a very visible financial impact—costs to society run in the billions of dollars every year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Here is a look at some domestic violence statistics–and the impact of domestic violence on health care costs in the United States.

Direct costs

The direct health care costs of domestic violence involve medical expenses. Of the 2 million women every year who are physically assaulted by their partners, more than 145,000 suffer injuries that require hospitalization. Many require multiple forms of care, including ambulance services, emergency room care, hospital stays and physical therapy, and most others are treated for less severe injuries that often are not identified as being the result of domestic violence.

Survivors face greater health care costs as well. A 2010 study by Ohio State University found that abused females’ average health care costs are $585 higher than those of non-abused women during the period of abuse. In the first two years after the abuse ends, victims face costs more than $1,200 higher than those for non-abused women and about $400 higher in the third year. While researchers did not have data to explain why costs were higher after the abuse as opposed to during it, one suspected that women who are in an abusive relationship fear retaliation, and only after escaping the situation are they more willing to seek mental health services.

The CDC, using data for 1995, put the costs of domestic violence at $5.8 billion per year, of which $4.1 billion goes to medical costs. Experts use the 1995 data because, since the federal Violence Against Women Act was passed in 1994, domestic violence research has slowed, perhaps on the underlying belief that the law was enough. In addition, data can be hard to come by because physicians are not trained to be advocates in cases of domestic violence—they are allowed to put the pieces together, but the pieces must be outwardly obvious—and survivors often don’t have the incentive to identify themselves as having been abused, for fear of retaliation. Of the $4.1 billion in medical costs, a little less than half was covered by private insurers. The victims paid about 29% of the expenses, and approximately 20% was covered by various public health plans. The rest was covered by free or low-income clinics or some other source.

Indirect costs

Not only do victims of domestic violence require medical attention, they also tend to miss work more frequently. To illustrate the extent of this problem, the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, using data from 2007, found that victims lose almost 8 million days of paid work per year. That’s equal to more than 32,000 full-time jobs and nearly 5.6 million days of household productivity.

However, that’s not the only problem. The NCADV notes that there are 16,800 homicides due to domestic violence annually. Factoring this in, the true cost is $37 billion. Adjusting for inflation, it would be $41.9 billion in 2014. To put that into perspective, that exceeds the gross domestic product of more than half of all nations on Earth.

Distraught woman image via Shutterstock.

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