OBJECTIVE: To explore the association between depression and physical, emotional, and sexual abuse by partners or ex-partners of women attending general practice. DESIGN: Descriptive, cross sectional survey. SETTING: 30 general practitioners in Victoria, Australia. PARTICIPANTS: 1257 consecutive female patients. MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES: Some type of abuse in an adult intimate relationship (composite abuse scale), depression (Beck depression inventory or Edinburgh postnatal depression scale), and physical health (SF-36). RESULTS: 18.0% (218/1213) of women scored as currently probably depressed and 24.1% (277/1147) had experienced some type of abuse in an adult intimate relationship. Depressed women were significantly more likely to have experienced severe combined abuse than women who were not depressed after adjusting for other significant sociodemographic variables (odds ratio 5.8, 95% confidence interval 2.8 to 12.0). These variables included not being married, having a poor education, being on a low income, being unemployed or receiving a pension, pregnancy status, or being abused as a child. CONCLUSION: Physical, emotional, and sexual abuse are strongly associated with depression in women attending general practice. Doctors should sensitively ask depressed women about their experiences of violence and abuse in intimate relationships. Research into depression should include measures of partner abuse in longitudinal and intervention studies.