• abuse;
  • women;
  • prevalence;
  • nondisclosure;
  • sociodemography

Background.  The aims of the present study were: 1) to estimate the prevalence of emotional, physical and sexual abuse and abuse in the health care system, and 2) to study the associations between prevalence of abuse and sociodemographic and sample variables.

Methods.  This cross-sectional study used a validated postal questionnaire in four Swedish samples; patients at three gynecologic clinics with different character and in different regions (n = 2439) and women in one randomized population sample (n = 1168).

Results.  Any lifetime emotional abuse was reported by 16.8–21.4% of the women; physical abuse by 32.1–37.5%; sexual abuse by 15.9–17.0%; and abuse in the health care system by 14.0–19.7%. For 7–8% abuse had included life threats and 9–20% of all women in the study currently suffered from their experiences of abuse. Most women had not disclosed their background of abuse to the gynecologist.

There were differences in sociodemographic variables between the four samples. Generally, in the multivariate analyses we found associations between prevalence of abuse and age, educational level, civil status and occupation, but no consistent association between prevalence of abuse and sample variables.

Conclusion.  Lifetime prevalence rates of the four kinds of abuse were high in all samples as measured by the NorVold Abuse Questionnaire (NorAQ), and 1/10–1/5 women in the study suffered currently from abusive experiences. In multivariate analyses prevalence of abuse was consistently associated with sociodemographic but not to sample variables.