Sabine Drieskens, Elise Braekman, Karin De Ridder, Lydia Gisle, Rana Charafeddine, Lize Hermans & Stefaan Demarest
Archives of Public Health, Volume 80, Article number: 39 (2022)
Since March 13th 2020, confinement measures have been introduced in Belgium to curb the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19). These measures also have an impact on people’s daily life (closure of school/businesses, teleworking, recommendation to stay at home). This can cause stress on social, economic and psychological levels and thereby can trigger domestic violence. Besides, confinement also fosters social isolation, which can complicate help seeking behaviour. The aim of this study is to determine the prevalence of domestic violence during the coronavirus crisis and to assess whether there is an association between domestic violence and social isolation.
Several online COVID-19 Health Surveys were organised among Belgian residents aged 18+ via snowball sampling. This study is based on the second (April 2020) and the sixth survey (March 2021). After excluding 1-person households and missing data, the sample size was respectively 25,251 and 12,589. Weighted prevalence of domestic violence was evaluated for the two surveys. The association (OR; 95% CI; p-value) between domestic violence and subjective social isolation was assessed with logistic regression stratified by survey and adjusted for covariates.
In April 2020, 4.0% of the adult population reported being a victim of domestic violence (1.2% in the Health Interview Survey 2018); in March 2021, this was 6.2%. In April 2020, victims of domestic violence had higher odds of being unsatisfied with their social contacts (OR = 1.25; 95% CI: 1.08–1.44; p < .05), weak social support (OR = 2.26; 95% CI: 1.97–2.58; p < .0001) and having less confidence in health care services (OR = 1.38; 95% CI: 1.13–1.71; p < .05). In March 2021, victims had higher odds of being unsatisfied with their social contacts (OR = 1.30; 95% CI: 1.08–1.56; p < .05) and weak social support (OR = 2.41; 95% CI: 2.04–2.84; p < .0001), and social (OR = 2.64; 95% CI: 2.23–3.13; p < .0001) and emotional loneliness (OR = 2.22; 95% CI: 1.80–2.73; p < .0001).
More people have reported domestic violence since the start of the coronavirus crisis than did in 2018. An association between domestic violence and social isolation was determined. Although confinement is needed to counteract the virus, it can put people in a dangerous situation since they do not get the help they need. Therefore, adequate support is essential.