Elder mistreatment predicts later physical and psychological health: Results from a national longitudinal study

J Elder Abuse Negl. Jan-Feb 2017;29(1):15-42. doi: 10.1080/08946566.2016.1235521. Epub 2016 Sep 16.


Stress process theory predicts that elder mistreatment leads to declines in health, and that social support buffers its ill effects. We test this theory using nationally representative, longitudinal data from 2,261 older adults in the National Social Life Health and Aging Project. We regress psychological and physical health in 2010/2011 on verbal and financial mistreatment experience in 2005/2006 and find that the mistreated have more anxiety symptoms, greater feelings of loneliness, and worse physical and functional health 5 years later than those who did not report mistreatment. In particular, we show a novel association between financial mistreatment and functional health. Contrary to the stress buffering hypothesis, we find little evidence that social support moderates the relationship between mistreatment and health. Our findings point to the lasting impact of mistreatment on health but show little evidence of a buffering role of social support in this process.

Keywords: Activities of daily living (ADLs); anxiety; financial mistreatment; loneliness; stress process theory; verbal mistreatment.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Anxiety
  • Elder Abuse / psychology*
  • Emotions
  • Female
  • Health Status*
  • Humans
  • Loneliness
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Mental Health*
  • Middle Aged
  • Social Support
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • United States