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13% of Seniors Report Being Mistreated

Abuse is verbal, financial and physical, especially for the impaired, study says

THURSDAY, Aug. 28 (HealthDay News) -- A new study says that 13 percent of American seniors suffer mistreatment from various forms of abuse.

The University of Chicago researchers said the chief forms were verbal abuse (9 percent), being taken advantage of financially (3.5 percent), and physical abuse (0.2 percent). The team also found that seniors with physical impairments were most likely to suffer verbal abuse.

"Older people with any physical vulnerability are about 13 percent more likely than those without one to report verbal mistreatment, but are not more likely to report financial mistreatment," study co-author Linda Waite, a professor of sociology, said in a university news release.

The analysis of national survey data from 3,005 community-dwelling adults, ages 57 to 85, also found that adults in their late 50s and 60s are more likely to report verbal or financial mistreatment than those who are older.

"Perhaps the respondents are including fairly routine arguments, perhaps about money, with their spouse, sibling or child in their reports, or perhaps older adults are more reticent to report negative behavior," lead author Edward Laumann, a professor of sociology, said in the news release.

Women were twice as likely as men to report verbal abuse; Hispanics were about half as likely as whites to report verbal abuse and 78 percent less likely to report financial mistreatment; and blacks were 77 percent more likely than whites to report financial mistreatment.

Of those who reported verbal abuse, 26 percent said their spouse or romantic partner was responsible, 15 percent said it was their children, and the remainder of respondents said friends, neighbors, co-workers or bosses were responsible. Of the respondents who reported financial abuse, 57 percent said a relative other than a spouse, parent or child was taking advantage of them.

The study was published in the Journal of Gerontology: Social Sciences.

"The population of this country is aging, and people now live with chronic diseases longer. So, it's important to understand, from a health perspective, how people are being treated as they age," Laumann said.

More information

The AGS Foundation for Health in Aging has more about elder abuse.

-- Robert Preidt

SOURCE: University of Chicago, news release, Aug. 19, 2008

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