Elder mistreatment in the United States: prevalence estimates from a nationally representative study

J Gerontol B Psychol Sci Soc Sci. 2008 Jul;63(4):S248-S254. doi: 10.1093/geronb/63.4.s248.


Objectives: The National Social Life, Health and Aging Project is the first population-based, nationally representative study to ask older adults about their recent experience of mistreatment. This article provides estimates of mistreatment by family members and examines the association of mistreatment with demographic and health characteristics.

Methods: We selected community-residing participants aged 57 to 85 using a multistage area probability design. Of those eligible, 3,005 participated in the study, for a weighted response rate of 75.5%. We asked respondents if in the past year they had experienced mistreatment in the following domains: verbal, financial, and physical. We asked those who reported mistreatment about their relationship to the person responsible.

Results: In all, 9% of older adults reported verbal mistreatment, 3.5% financial mistreatment, and 0.2% physical mistreatment by a family member. Odds of verbal mistreatment were higher for women and those with physical vulnerabilities and were lower for Latinos than for Whites. Odds of financial mistreatment were higher for African Americans and lower for Latinos than for Whites and were lower for those with a spouse or romantic partner than for those without partners.

Discussion: Few older adults report mistreatment by family members, with older adults quite insulated from physical mistreatment.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Activities of Daily Living*
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Blacks / statistics & numerical data
  • Caregivers / statistics & numerical data
  • Cognition Disorders / epidemiology
  • Cognition Disorders / psychology
  • Cross-Cultural Comparison
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Elder Abuse / ethnology
  • Elder Abuse / statistics & numerical data*
  • Female
  • Health Status
  • Hispanic or Latino / statistics & numerical data
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Mobility Limitation
  • Risk Factors
  • United States
  • Whites / statistics & numerical data