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What are the top risk factors for elder abuse?

Elder abuse is a massive problem on a global scale. According to a 2017 study that sampled 28 countries, almost 16% of individuals 60 years and older had experienced some form of abuse.

Since the scale of the problem is so massive and under-reporting is so common, we still do not have a complete picture of elder abuse in nursing homes and assisted living centers. However, there are some common risk factors that tend to appear in many elder abuse situations. According to the World Health Organization, these risks exist on the individual, relationship and community level.

Individual and relationship

Risks at the end of visual level involve the current physical or mental health of the victim. It also relates to mental disorders or substance abuse in abusers. An elderly person in poor health with a caretaker dependent on substances is at much higher risk of abuse. Much also depends on the gender of the victim and surrounding cultural traditions. While men are just as much at risk for elder abuse as women, in cultures where women have inferior social status they are at much higher risk for neglect and financial abuse once widowed.


Caregivers and elderly persons who suffer from social isolation are much more likely to engage in abusive relationships. Additionally, cultures that depict older adults as frail, weak and dependent tend to see higher levels of elder abuse. Within community settings like nursing homes, abuse is more likely if staff levels are low and said staff is poorly trained. Abuse is also rife in community settings where policies orient toward profit rather than care for the residents.


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