Objectives: To examine loneliness as a risk factor for elder mistreatment in an urban, community-dwelling Chinese population.
Design: Cross-sectional descriptive study.
Setting: Major urban medical center in NanJing, China.
Participants: Four hundred twelve subjects aged 60 and older who presented to the general medical clinic. The mean age of the participants was 70, and 34% were female. Mean education level was 8.5 years of schooling.
Measurements: Loneliness was assessed using validated instruments, and direct questions were asked regarding mistreatment experienced by older adults.
Results: Elder mistreatment was found in 35.2% of the participants. After adjusting for confounding factors, feeling of often lacking companionship (odds ratio (OR)=4.06; 95% confidence interval (CI)=1.49-11.10) and feeling of sometimes being left out in life (OR=1.69; 95% CI=1.01-2.84) were positively associated with the risk of mistreatment. Risk of mistreatment was also correlated with higher total loneliness scores (OR=2.74; 95% CI=1.19-6.26).
Conclusion: Loneliness appeared to be a risk factor associated with elder mistreatment in this older Chinese population. Further prospective studies are needed to confirm this finding. An exploration of Chinese culture and tradition may yield insight into shaping a prevention framework for mistreatment of older Chinese people.