The mortality of elder mistreatment

JAMA. 1998 Aug 5;280(5):428-32. doi: 10.1001/jama.280.5.428.


Context: Although elder mistreatment is suspected to be life threatening in some instances, little is known about the survival of elderly persons who have been mistreated.

Objective: To estimate the independent contribution of reported elder abuse and neglect to all-cause mortality in an observational cohort of community-dwelling older adults.

Design: Prospective cohort study with at least 9 years of follow-up.

Setting and patients: The New Haven Established Population for Epidemiologic Studies in the Elderly cohort, which included 2812 community-dwelling adults who were older than 65 years in 1982, a subset of whom were referred to protective services for the elderly.

Main outcome measures: All-cause mortality among (1) elderly persons for whom protective services were used for corroborated elder mistreatment (elder abuse, neglect, and/or exploitation), or (2) elderly persons for whom protective services were used for self-neglect.

Results: In the first 9 years after cohort inception, 176 cohort members were seen by elderly protective services for verified allegations; 10 (5.7%) of these were for abuse, 30 (17.0%) for neglect, 8 (4.5%) for exploitation, and 128 (72.7%) for self-neglect. At the end of a 13-year follow-up period from cohort inception, cohort members seen for elder mistreatment at any time during the follow-up had poorer survival (9%) than either those seen for self-neglect (17%) or other noninvestigated cohort members (40%) (P<.001). In a pooled logistic regression that adjusted for demographic characteristics, chronic diseases, functional status, social networks, cognitive status, and depressive symptomatology, the risk of death remained elevated for cohort members experiencing either elder mistreatment (odds ratio, 3.1; 95% confidence interval, 1.4-6.7) or self-neglect (odds ratio, 1.7; 95% confidence interval, 1.2-2.5), when compared with other members of the cohort.

Conclusions: Reported and corroborated elder mistreatment and self-neglect are associated with shorter survival after adjusting for other factors associated with increased mortality in older adults.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Cause of Death
  • Cohort Studies
  • Connecticut / epidemiology
  • Elder Abuse / mortality*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Logistic Models
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Multivariate Analysis
  • Social Work
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • Survival Analysis
  • United States / epidemiology