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Abuse and neglect of older people

Secondary analysis of UK prevalence study

Elderly lady
Published: April 2013


We wanted to explore how we define the mistreatment of older people and whether this had any impact on the prevalence of mistreatment or abuse. We also want to look at the characteristics of older people who reported mistreatment.


Mistreatment included financial, physical, psychological and sexual abuse, and neglect.

Older people at the greatest risk of mistreatment were:

  • female
  • separated or divorced
  • had experience of depression
  • had a poor quality of life
  • and took regular medication

Possible further risk factors to be explored were:

  • number of falls
  • mobility problems
  • negative views about the local neighbourhood
  • and having little regular contact with friends

Exploring definitions and types of mistreatment 

  • Around 1 in 40 older people reported mistreatment in the past year by family, friends or care workers.
  • Reported mistreatment increased from 1 in 40 to about 1 in 10 when the definition was widened to include neighbours and acquaintances, rather than just family, friends and care workers; and single rather repeated incidences.
  • Widening the definition also meant that psychological abuse rather than neglect became the most commonly reported type of mistreatment.
  • There was little overlap in types of abuse; being a victim of one type of mistreatment didn’t put you at increased risk of another type.Different risk factors were associated with different types of mistreatment. For example, being single or widowed is associated with financial abuse.


We conducted a multivariate analysis using data collected in the UK Study of Abuse and Neglect of Older People and the Health Survey for England

Read the report