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World Elder Abuse Day 2017: New Evidence on Incidence, Risks, and Outcomes of Elder Abuse

Stephanie Bergren
Chinese Health, Aging, and Policy Program
Institute for Health, Health Care Policy, and Aging Research
Rutgers University
[email protected]

Chicago, IL, June 14—Elder abuse or mistreatment is a serious public health issue impacting at least 1 in 10 older adults in the United States each year, leading to declines in the health and well-being on individual and family levels. However, our general knowledge on elder abuse represents the “tip of the iceberg”. Researchers still have much to learn about the magnitude and scope of elder abuse.

For the first time, researchers at Rush University Medical Center have examined elder abuse (psychological, physical, sexual, financial exploitation, caregiver neglect) and self-neglect in relationship to its two-year incidence, adult children perpetrators and previous child abuse, levels of physical function, and suicidal ideation.

In a collection of five studies in the Journal of Gerontology: Medical Sciences Volume 72: S1, Dr. XinQi Dong, MD, MPH, Professor of Medicine, Nursing, and Behavioral Sciences, utilized the PINE and PIETY studies, two population-based longitudinal studies surveying over 3,000 Chinese older adults and their adult children, to investigate elder abuse among U.S. Chinese, finding:

  • Nearly 1 in 10 Chinese older adults become new victims of elder abuse every two years
  • Risk factors for elder abuse vary depending on the type of abuse
  • Adult children who were abused as minors are nearly twice as likely to abuse their elderly parents compared to those who were not abused
  • Victims of elder abuse and self-neglect are 2-3 times more likely to have suicidal ideation than non-victims
  • Lower levels of physical function may be a protective factor against victimization

“In these five articles, what we’re finding is that elder abuse is an extremely complex problem, with severe consequences regarding psychological well-being,” states Dong. “Patterns of victimization may be influenced by the older adults’ health, intergenerational relationships, and other social determinants like culture.

Examining elder abuse in the U.S. Chinese community sheds light on the potential cultural nuances of elder abuse. Perpetrators of elder abuse tend to be family members, but adherence to collectivism or familism and lack of institutional support may deter Chinese Americans from asking for help.

Dong continues, “while we want prevention and intervention efforts to be implemented as soon as possible, researchers need to make sure they have enough information to create effective, culturally-appropriate programs to truly improve the lives of older adults.”

Note: Articles available upon request.