January 14, 2021

Student-led study links partner violence and depression in university matriculants

Depression and violence

A published study led by a Wayne State University School of Medicine student reveals that there is a link between an experience of intimate partner violence and depression in college students.

Arif Musa, a third-year medical student, launched the project because of the increased prevalence of depressive disorders among college students, coupled with the prevalence of partner violence, an often stigmatized and under-reported occurrence among campus communities, he said.

Arif Musa

Musa is the lead author of “The Prevalence of Intimate Partner Violence and Association with Depression in University Students: Results of a Cross-Sectional Study,” included in this month’s issue of the Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease.

Could partner violence and depression be connected? Musa searched for the answer while still a student-researcher and master’s degree candidate at the University of California at Irvine. His questions were spurred by a class he took about intimate partner violence, led by Alfonso Valdez, Ph.D., professor of Sociology and an expert on violence and gang warfare in the United States and abroad.

“As former law enforcement, Dr. Valdez was an inspiring figure on campus and taught sociology courses with an emphasis on understanding the cycle of violence in different communities. He was the perfect faculty advisor for my study,” Musa said.

A survey of college students included sociodemographic, relationship quality and depression-related questions. From 498 respondents, the prevalence of intimate partner violence was 4.8%, depression was 30.9% and suicidal ideation was 20.3%. After adjusting for covariates and confounders, relationship satisfaction and jealousy were significant predictors of partner violence. Relationship satisfaction predicted depressive disorders. Partner violence trended toward predicting the presence of a depressive disorder. Relationship satisfaction and jealousy predicted partner violence. While partner violence did not predict depression, poor relationship satisfaction increased the odds of depression, implicating the influence of relationship satisfaction on both violence and depression.

Musa recruited a multi-disciplinary team of faculty from the fields of psychiatry, clinical psychology and sociology for the study. In addition to the assistance of his study co-authors, the study received support from the UC Irvine CARE (Campus Assault Resources and Education) division of Student Affairs, making the study a unique collaboration between on-campus psychologists and social services directly involved in caring for students’ mental health and research faculty at the medical center.

The publication is the latest for the prolific and award-winning student researcher who continued his research projects as a WSU medical student. His flagship study, “Depression Severity and Depression Stigma Among Students: A Survey of Universities in Five Countries,” was published in the Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease last year. He most recently won the Stryker Medical Student Research Grant from the J. Robert Gladden Orthopaedic Society to investigate diversity in the specialty of orthopedic surgery. Musa was an active member of the Orthopedic Surgery Interest Group at the WSU School of Medicine as a second-year student, and proposed in 2019 what is believed to be the first student-run clinical research showcase. Students from all classes at the School of Medicine were encouraged to submit abstracts in the oral presentation and poster category.

“It was an opportunity for students from different backgrounds to submit research that they had already completed, were in the process of completing, or would be working on in the future,” he said.

Musa mentored the Class of 2023 students who hosted the second, now annual showcase, virtually in December 2020.