The COVID-19 pandemic and lockdown restrictions introduced personal and relationship stressors that potentially increased the risk of intimate partner violence (IPV) for some. We estimated the population prevalence and correlates of fearing a partner in the first year of the pandemic in Britain.


We used data from Natsal-COVID Wave 2—a web-panel survey undertaken one year after the initial British lockdown from 23 March 2020. Quotas and weighting were used to achieve a quasi-representative sample of the general population. Participants were asked about fearing a partner, which is a simple and valid screening tool to identify IPV experiences.


In our sample (unweighted n = 6302, aged 18–59), 9.0% of women and 8.7% of men reported fearing a partner in the first year of the pandemic. Women (73.3%) were more likely than men (49.9%) to indicate that fearing a partner made them feel anxious or depressed; men were more likely to report increased substance use (30.8% vs. 18.4%) and affected work/studies (30.0% vs. 20.0%). For both women and men, fearing a partner during the first year of the pandemic was associated with established health and wellbeing outcomes like anxiety/depression, alcohol use, accessing sexual/reproductive health services, and relationship dissolution as well as feeling that the “pandemic made things worse” across various life domains.


Population-level estimates of IPV during the COVID-19 pandemic highlight harmful experiences that occurred alongside other wide-ranging hardships, and the associations presented identify key populations with potential ongoing need. We make recommendations for primary, secondary, and tertiary prevention of IPV.


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Cite as

Willis, M., Tanton, C., Conolly, A., Baxter, A., Bosó Pérez, R., Riddell, J., Dema, E., Copas, A., Macdowall, W., Bonell, C., Mercer, C., Sonnenberg, P., Field, N. & Mitchell, K. 2023, 'Prevalence and correlates of fearing a partner during the COVID-19 pandemic in Britain: findings from Natsal-COVID', Journal of Family Violence. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10896-023-00665-w

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Last updated: 30 November 2023
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