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Prevalence and Correlates of Emotional, Physical, Sexual, and Financial Abuse and Potential Neglect in the United States: The National Elder Mistreatment Study

In this study, researchers estimated prevalence and assessed correlates of emotional, physical, sexual, and financial mistreatment and potential neglect (defined as an identified need for assistance that no one was actively addressing) of adults aged 60 years or older in a randomly selected national sample.

 To build on existing research and address the limitations of previous studies, authors designed a study of mistreatment among the elderly in the United States with the methods, definitions, and inclusion of potential correlates (e.g., demographic factors and dependency variables such as use of social services, need of assistance with activities of daily living, health status, and social support) outlined by the National Research Council. We surveyed a national sample of community-residing adults aged 60 years and older to accomplish two aims:

  1.  Assess 1-year prevalence of physical, sexual, emotional, or financial mistreatment or potential neglect (defined as an identified need for assistance that no one was actively addressing) and
  2. Identify correlates of each form of mistreatment.

 Investigation compiled a representative sample by random digit dialing across geographic strata. We used computer-assisted telephone interviewing to standardize collection of demographic, risk factor, and mistreatment data. We subjected prevalence estimates and mistreatment correlates to logistic regression.

 Data from 5777 respondents analyzed in detail. One-year prevalence was 4.6% for emotional abuse, 1.6% for physical abuse, 0.6% for sexual abuse, 5.1% for potential neglect, and 5.2% for current financial abuse by a family member. One in 10 respondents reported emotional, physical, or sexual mistreatment or potential neglect in the past year. The most consistent correlates of mistreatment across abuse types were low social support and previous traumatic event exposure.

Finally, data showed that abuse of the elderly is prevalent. Addressing low social support with preventive interventions could have significant public health implications.


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