Intimate partner violence in older South African women: An analysis of the 2016 Demographic and Health Survey

N. Metheny, Z. Essack

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background. South Africa (SA) has one of the highest rates of intimate partner violence (IPV) in the world. It is also in the midst of a demographic transition in which the number of people aged >60 years is expected to double by mid-century. Despite the confluence of these two public health issues, there are no published studies on the epidemiology and risk factors for IPV in older SA women. Objectives. To provide a foundational understanding of IPV among women aged ≥50 years in SA. Methods. This study used the first-ever nationally representative sample of women aged >49 (N=2 265) that includes data on physical, sexual, and emotional IPV. Both lifetime experience of IPV and IPV within the past 12 months were reported, as was the presence of controlling behaviours by the partner. Four multilevel logistic models and one multilevel linear regression model were fit to examine the demographic, developmental and structural correlates of IPV in women aged 50 - 95. Results. The lifetime prevalence rates for all types of IPV were slightly higher among older women than among women aged 15 - 49. Nine percent of respondents reported IPV in the past 12 months, and 35% reported at least one persistent controlling behaviour. Divorced/ separated women and those who had witnessed IPV as a child had greater odds of reporting IPV. In contrast to the literature on younger women, education, race and wealth were not strong predictors of IPV in this sample of older women. Conclusions. This study is the first of its kind in the SA context, and shows that IPV is a persistent threat for women across the lifespan. It suggests that IPV may manifest differently in older women compared with women of reproductive age, necessitating future qualitative and quantitative studies that examine the correlates, causes and points of intervention unique to this growing population.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1020-1025
Number of pages6
JournalSouth African Medical Journal
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 2020

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine(all)


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