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Original research
Physical and verbal abuse amid COVID-19: a nationwide cross-sectional survey in Japan
  1. Divya Bhandari1,
  2. Akihiko Ozaki1,2,
  3. Tomoya Suzuki1,3,
  4. Yasuhiro Kotera4,
  5. Sunil Shrestha5,
  6. Sayaka Horiuchi6,
  7. Takashi Miyachi1,3,
  8. Takahiro Tabuchi7
  1. 1Medical Governance Research Institute, Tokyo, Japan
  2. 2Department of Breast Surgery, Jyoban Hospital of Tokiwa Foundation, Iwaki, Japan
  3. 3School of Medicine, Akita University, Akita, Japan
  4. 4School of Health Science, University of Nottingham, Nottingham, UK
  5. 5School of Pharmacy, Monash University Malaysia, Bandar Sunway, Selangor, Malaysia
  6. 6Center for Birth Cohort Studies, University of Yamanashi, Yamanashi, Japan
  7. 7Cancer Control Center, Osaka International Cancer Institute, Osaka, Japan
  1. Correspondence to Divya Bhandari; rayordeal3{at}gmail.com

Abstract

Objectives The detrimental impacts of abuse on victims’ well-being are well documented globally, including Japan. The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic may increase the incidence of abuse in the community, creating an additional burden amid the crisis. However, the incidence of abuse in Japan during COVID-19 remains to be evaluated. Accordingly, our study aimed to assess the incidence of physical and verbal abuse among the general population in Japan and to identify the associated factors of abuse during COVID-19.

Design and setting We used the data obtained from a nationwide, cross-sectional internet survey conducted in Japan between August and September 2020. Sampling weights were used to calculate national estimates, and multivariable logistic regression was performed to identify the associated factors for physical and verbal abuse.

Results Out of the total 25 482 participants, 965 (3.8 %) reported experiencing physical abuse and 1941 (7.6%) verbal abuse from April 2020 to September 2020. The incidence of physical and verbal abuse was higher among female participants. Participants who lived in areas where the ‘state of emergency’ was enforced were more likely to suffer from physical abuse. Similarly, vulnerable participants such as those below age 18, with low income, bad family relationships, and disabled people were more likely to experience both physical and verbal abuse. Participants suffering from COVID-19-related symptoms, who had poor health status and widows/divorcees were more likely to be verbally abused. Furthermore, those who did not follow preventive behaviours such as wearing masks in public places, abusing drugs and drinking alcohol in high amounts were also more likely to experience abuse.

Conclusion The impact of abuse was found disproportionately greater in more vulnerable groups of the population. Pandemic has reinforced the existing social inequalities, which need to be addressed timely to prevent precarious repercussions.

  • public health
  • epidemiology
  • health services administration & management

Data availability statement

Data are available on reasonable request. All data relevant to the study are included in the article or uploaded as online supplemental information. The data that support the findings of this study are available on reasonable request. The data of this study are not available in a public repository because they contain personally identifiable or potentially sensitive participant information. Based on the regulations for ethical guidelines in Japan, the Research Ethics Committee of the Osaka International Cancer Institute has imposed restrictions on the dissemination of the data collected in this study. If any person wishes to verify our data, they are most welcome to contact the corresponding author.

http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/4.0/

This is an open access article distributed in accordance with the Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial (CC BY-NC 4.0) license, which permits others to distribute, remix, adapt, build upon this work non-commercially, and license their derivative works on different terms, provided the original work is properly cited, appropriate credit is given, any changes made indicated, and the use is non-commercial. See: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/4.0/.

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Data availability statement

Data are available on reasonable request. All data relevant to the study are included in the article or uploaded as online supplemental information. The data that support the findings of this study are available on reasonable request. The data of this study are not available in a public repository because they contain personally identifiable or potentially sensitive participant information. Based on the regulations for ethical guidelines in Japan, the Research Ethics Committee of the Osaka International Cancer Institute has imposed restrictions on the dissemination of the data collected in this study. If any person wishes to verify our data, they are most welcome to contact the corresponding author.

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Footnotes

  • Twitter @TakahiroTabuchi

  • Contributors DB conceptualised the study, analysed the data, wrote and revised the manuscript. DB is responsible for the overall content as the guarantor. TT contributed to the conceptualisation, project administration, funding acquisition, review and revision of the manuscript. AO, TS, YK, SS, SH and TM contributed during the conceptualisation, review and revision of the manuscript. All authors read and approved the final manuscript for publication.

  • Funding This study was funded by the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science (JSPS) KAKENHI Grants (grant number 17H03589;19K10671;19K10446;18H03107; 18H03062; 21H04856), the JSPS Grant-in-Aid for Young Scientists (grant number 19K19439), Research support programme to apply the wisdom of the university to tackle COVID-19-related emergency problems, University of Tsukuba, and Health Labor Sciences Research Grant (grant number 19FA1005;19FG2001).

  • Competing interests AO received personal fees from MNES, outside the submitted work.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.