Prevalence of and Risk Factors for Elder Abuse and Neglect in the Community: A Population-Based Study

J Am Geriatr Soc. 2015 Sep;63(9):1906-12. doi: 10.1111/jgs.13601. Epub 2015 Aug 27.


Objectives: To estimate past-year prevalence and identify risk and protective factors of elder emotional abuse, physical abuse, and neglect.

Design: Cross-sectional, population-based study using random-digit-dial sampling and direct telephone interviews.

Setting: New York State households.

Participants: Representative (race, ethnicity, sex) sample (N = 4,156) of English- or Spanish-speaking, community-dwelling, cognitively intact individuals aged 60 and older.

Measurements: The Conflict Tactics Scale was adapted to assess elder emotional and physical abuse. Elder neglect was evaluated according to failure of a responsible caregiver to meet an older adult's needs using the Duke Older Americans Resources and Services (OARS) scale. Caseness thresholds were based on mistreatment behavior frequencies and elder perceptions of problem seriousness.

Results: Past-year prevalence of elder emotional abuse was 1.9%, of physical abuse was 1.8%, and of neglect was 1.8%, with an aggregate prevalence of 4.6%. Emotional and physical abuse were associated with being separated or divorced, living in a lower-income household, functional impairment, and younger age. Neglect was associated with poor health, being separated or divorced, living below the poverty line, and younger age. Neglect was less likely in older adults of Hispanic ethnicity.

Conclusion: Elder abuse and neglect are common problems, with divergent risk and protective factor profiles. These findings have direct implications for public screening and education and awareness efforts designed to prevent elder mistreatment.

Keywords: elder abuse; elder neglect; prevalence; risk factors.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Elder Abuse / statistics & numerical data*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Independent Living
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Prevalence
  • Risk Factors