Structural violence: A concept analysis to inform nursing science and practice

Candace W. Burton, Claire E. Gilpin, Jessica Draughon Moret

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This analysis is meant to elucidate the concept of structural violence and its implications for nursing science and practice. The concept of structural violence, also known as indirect violence, was first identified in the literature by peace researcher Johan Galtung. According to Galtung, structural violence broadly represents harm done to persons and groups through inequitable social, political, or economic structures. Such inequitable structures, such as systemic discrimination based on race, ethnicity, religion, gender, sexual orientation, etc. create conditions within society that directly disadvantage and oppress members of certain groups. This oppression can inflict profound physical, psychological, and socioeconomic harm on individuals, leading to disparate health outcomes. Using techniques for developing conceptual meaning as outlined in Chinn and Kramer (2018), our analysis seeks to specify meanings and applications of structural violence for application to nursing. This analysis draws on literature from clinical, historical, and other social sciences. Databases including CINAHL, PubMed, JSTOR, and PsychInfo were explored for references to structural violence. Structural violence is readily identified in specific contexts where individuals or groups are disadvantaged by socially constructed systems, such as those of race, gender, and economic privilege. Structural violence can result in health disparities and the development of conditions that predispose individuals to health risks. Nurses must be familiar with the concept to address these issues with patients.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)382-388
Number of pages7
JournalNursing Forum
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 1 2021
Externally publishedYes


  • bias
  • race
  • social structures
  • structural violence

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Nursing(all)


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