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The Prevalence of Elder Abuse

Date Published
April 14, 2010

Sidebar to the article Elder Abuse Emerges From the Shadows of Public Consciousness by Philip Bulman.

To find out just how widespread elder abuse may be, NIJ sponsored a study that involved an extensive telephone survey of older Americans. More than 5,000 people, 60 or older, participated. Interviewers asked participants about their experiences in the previous year, as well as their lifetimes overall. The prevalence of physical mistreatment was 1.6 percent. Of those who reported this mistreatment to interviewers, only 31 percent said they had reported the problem to police. Strangers accounted for only 3 percent of these assaults; family members were the perpetrators in 76 percent of the cases.

In July 2003, there were 35.9 million people 65 and older, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. If 1.6 percent of those were physically abused, the total number of cases would be 574,400. The older population is on the threshold of a boom, according to census projections. A substantial increase will occur during the 201 to 2030 period. The elder population in 2030 is expected to be twice as large as in 2000, growing from 35 million to 72 million.

Of those surveyed, 0.6 percent reported being sexually abused in the previous year. About 16 percent of these people said they had reported the assault to the police. Family members were responsible for about half of the assaults.

Other types of abuse include:

  • Financial exploitation: 5.2 percent
  • Potential neglect: 5.1 percent
  • Emotional mistreatment: 5.1 percent

Overall, 11 percent of those surveyed reported some form of mistreatment in the previous year; 1.2 percent reported two forms of mistreatment, and 0.2 percent reported three forms.

For More Information

About This Article

This article appeared in NIJ Journal Issue 265, April 2010, as a sidebar to the article Elder Abuse Emerges From the Shadows of Public Consciousness by Philip Bulman.

National Institute of Justice, "The Prevalence of Elder Abuse," April 14, 2010, nij.ojp.gov:
Date Created: April 14, 2010