An Estimation of the Economic Impact of Spousal Violence in Canada 2009 (Department of Justice)

Publication Date: 
Resource Origin: 
T. Zhang, J. Hoddenbagh, S. McDonald, K. Scrim

Executive Summary

This report provides an estimate of the economic impact of spousal violence that occurred in Canada in 2009. Spousal violence is a widespread and unfortunate social reality that has an effect on all Canadians. Victims of spousal violence are susceptible to sustaining costly and long-lasting physical, emotional, and financial consequences. Children who are exposed to spousal violence suffer in many ways and are at increased risk of developing negative social behaviours or disorders as a result (Dauvergne and Johnson 2001). The victims’ family, friends, and employers are also affected to varying degrees. Every member of society eventually feels the impact of spousal violence through the additional financial strain imposed on publicly funded systems and services.

The more Canadians understand about the costly and serious impact of spousal violence, the better prepared we are to continue efforts to prevent it and where it does occur, to protect and assist victims, to hold perpetrators accountable, and to take measures to break the cycle of violence. Estimating the economic impact of a social phenomenon such as spousal violence, a process known as costing, is a way to measure both the tangible and intangible impacts of that phenomenon. By placing a dollar value on the impact, a common unit of measurement is provided. The dollar value for the economic impact of spousal violence can then be compared to the corresponding estimates of other social phenomena. Proponents of costing contend that the understanding of economic impacts and the comparison of different social issues in the same units are important to policymakers, activists, social workers, and the public by assisting in the proper allocation of resources, and in evaluating the effectiveness of programs. 


Spousal violence is very costly and it affects – directly or indirectly – all Canadians. An estimated $7.4 billion was or will be lost to society because of spousal violence incidents that occurred in 2009. The most significant portion of these costs is tied to victims’ pain and suffering and loss of life. A large portion was also spent on preventing and responding to spousal violence. Due to data unavailability and the limitations of existing data in many areas of research, it is reasonable to suggest that the estimate of $7.4 billion is a conservative estimate. However, the available data provides a clear indication that spousal violence has a significant impact on all of Canadian society. It is therefore crucial to continue efforts to prevent spousal violence, and where it does occur, to protect and assist victims, to hold perpetrators accountable, and to take necessary measures to help ensure that the cycle does not persist for future generations.