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The Prevalence of Elder Abuse: A Random Sample Survey

The present study was conducted to more accurately assess the scope and nature of maltreatment of the elderly occurring in the community at large. It was the first large scale random sample survey of the problem, involving over 2000 elderly persons in the Boston, Massachusetts metropolitan area. The study revealed prevalence rates for various types of maltreatment and allowed for the identification of subgroups of the elderly population who appeared to be at greatest risk.

In this first large-scale random sample survey of elder abuse and neglect, interviews were conducted with 2020 community-dwelling elderly persons in the Boston metropolitan area regarding their experience of physical violence, verbal aggression, and neglect. The prevalence rate of overall maltreatment was 32 elderly persons per 1000. Spouses were found to be the most likely abusers and roughly equal numbers of men and women were victims, although women suffered more serious abuse. Implications for public policy are discussed.

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