Washington: A new study has revealed that physical violence against women by male partners disrupts a key steroid hormone that opens the door potentially to a variety of negative health effects.
The study by the University of Oregon and the Oregon Social Learning Center looked at daily fluctuations of cortisol levels in men and women.
Cortisol levels typically rise as people wake up, peak shortly thereafter and then decline rapidly. Researchers compared the cortisol levels with the frequency of interpersonal violence as reported by both partners in the relationships.
The researchers noted a disruption from normal diurnal (daily) cortisol rhythms only in women as seen by a slower decline through the afternoons and higher-than-normal levels late in the day.
It was found that woman's, but not men's, victimization was associated with multiple indicators of diurnal cortisol levels. It has been argued that interpersonal violence is more detrimental for women than for men, and our study suggests that it might indeed be due to disruptions in HPA-axis activity.
The team is now looking at the women's dysregulated daily cortisol rhythms for connections to subsequent physical and psychological outcomes to confirm a gender specific vulnerability to interpersonal violence in relationships.
The study was published in the journal Psychoneuroendocrinology.