Background: American and Australian studies indicate that domestic violence is common among patients attending for emergency care. It is not clear whether this applies to patients attending emergency departments in the UK.
Methods: A single centre cross sectional study. Adult patients attending the emergency department of Addenbrooke's Hospital, Cambridge were interviewed in randomly allocated time blocks, using validated questions from a US study. Potential participants were excluded if they (1) were unwilling (2) had an altered mental status (3) had a companion who refused to leave (4) were too ill (5) were unable to speak English (6) personal contacts of the interviewer.
Results and Conclusions: 256 completed interviews were returned out of a possible 307 (84.8%). The incidence of domestic violence was 1.2% (95% CI 0.2% to 3.4%). The lifetime prevalence of domestic violence was 22.4% (95% CI 15.6% to 30.4%) among men and 22.1% (95% CI 15.1% to 30.5%) among women. The incidence and prevalence rates of domestic violence were considerably lower than in the US study, but similar to prevalence rates recorded in British community surveys. A significant association was found between reported domestic violence and reported deliberate self harm in women (odds ratio 75.4 95% CI 13.1% to 433.7). There was no significant association between higher use of medical care and domestic violence.
Interpretation: Domestic violence is common among patients attending for emergency care in the UK. There is a significant association between domestic violence and deliberate self harm in women, further work is required to see if this association is causal. Larger emergency department surveys are required to confirm these results.