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Cohort profile
Cohort profile: intimate partner violence and mental health among women from refugee background and a comparison group of Australian-born – the WATCH cohort study
  1. Susan Rees1,
  2. Mohammed Mohsin1,2,
  3. Batool Moussa1,
  4. Jane Fisher3,
  5. Zachary Steel1,
  6. Nawal Nadar1,
  7. Fatima Hassoun1,
  8. Batoul Khalil1,
  9. Mariam Youssef1,
  10. Yalini Krishna1
  1. 1 Discipline of Psychiatry, School of Clinical Medicine, Faculty of Medicine, University of New South Wales, Kensington Campus, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
  2. 2 Mental Health Research Unit, Liverpool Hospital, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
  3. 3 Global and Women’s Health Unit, Public Health and Preventive Medicine, Monash University, Clayton, Victoria, Australia
  1. Correspondence to Dr Susan Rees; s.j.rees{at}


Purpose The Women Aware with Their Children study was created because prospective data are required to accurately guide prevention programmes for intimate partner violence (IPV) and to improve the mental health and resettlement trajectories of women from refugee backgrounds in Australia.

Participants 1335 women (685 consecutively enrolled from refugee backgrounds and 650 randomly selected Australian-born) recruited during pregnancy from three public antenatal clinics in Sydney and Melbourne, Australia. The mean age was 29.7 years among women from refugee backgrounds and 29.0 years among women born in the host nation. Main measures include IPV, mood, panic, post-traumatic stress disorder, disability and living difficulties.

Findings to date Prevalence of IPV at all three time points is significantly higher for refugee-background women. The trend data showed that reported IPV rates among Australian-born women increased from 25.8% at time 1 to 30.1% at time 3, while for refugee-background women this rate declined from 44.4% at time 1 to 42.6% at time 3. Prevalence of major depressive disorder (MDD) at all three time points is higher for refugee-background women. MDD among Australian-born women significantly declined from 14.5% at time 1 to 9.9% at time 3, while for refugee-background women it fluctuated from 25.1% at time 1 to 17.3% at time 2 and to 19.1% at time 3.

Future plans We are currently examining trajectories of IPV and mental disorder across four time points. Time 4 occurred during the COVID-19 pandemic, enabling a unique opportunity to examine the impacts of the pandemic over time. Time 5 started in August 2021 and time 6 will begin approximately 12 months later. The children at time 5 are in the early school years, providing the capacity to examine behaviour, development and well-being of the index child.

  • Adult psychiatry

Data availability statement

Data are available upon reasonable request. Data will be made available following request to the chief investigators, SR, ZS and JF.

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:

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Data availability statement

Data are available upon reasonable request. Data will be made available following request to the chief investigators, SR, ZS and JF.

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  • Collaborators Interested scholars and others may contact the study team (Susan Rees, Zachary Steel or Jane Fisher) if they wish to receive more information or have a proposal for collaboration. We are interested in extending partnerships, particularly in preparing for future waves of data collection and secondary data analysis.

  • Contributors SR, JF, MY, NN, BM, FH, YK and BK made substantial contributions to the initial study conception and study design. SR, MM, JF, ZS, MY, NN, BM, FH, YK and BK made substantial contributions to the design and content of the study protocol and the critical revision of the submitted manuscript. All authors approved the final article for submission. SR was responsible for the initial drafting of the manuscript. MM, SR and BM were involved in data analysis and interpretation. SR, JF, ZS, NN, BM, FH, MY, YK and BK were responsible for recruitment and monitoring of the study participants. SR, JF and ZS were responsible for overseeing the study as it progressed and for provision of guidance to research staff. SR is guarantor and accepts full responsibility for the study, data and decision to publish.

  • Funding This study was supported by the National Health and Medical Research Council, Australia (GNT1086774 and GNT1164736).

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Patient and public involvement Patients and/or the public were involved in the design, conduct, reporting or dissemination plans of this research. Refer to the Cohort Description section for further details.

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