Prevalence and associated factors of elder abuse in a community-dwelling population of Aotearoa New Zealand: A cross-sectional study


  • Polly Yeung Massey University
  • Lareen Cooper Massey University
  • Michael Dale Massey University



The purpose of this cross-sectional study was to investigate the prevalence and associated factors of elder abuse in a representative sample of older people in Aotearoa New Zealand. Analysis was conducted on responses from the second wave of the New Zealand Longitu- dinal Study of Ageing (NZLSA) omnibus survey of 3,923 adults aged 50-87 years. Using the elder mistreatment screening questions, the sample was split between those who identified of having experienced elder abuse (n = 529) and those who did not (n = 2417) from a large population-based study to compare on 19 variables (i.e. age, gender, marital status, living arrangement, education levels, ethnicity, personal income, total number of health conditions, physical health, mental health, ability to get around, economic wellbeing, loneliness, social and emotional loneliness, depression, happiness, satisfaction with life and quality of life). Significant differences were found on 16 of the variables assessed. Results suggested that those who have experienced elder abuse had a higher level of loneliness and poor economic wellbeing. They were more likely to experience depression, have poorer mental health and be less happy. The experience of abuse had significant impact on their satisfaction with life and overall quality of life. A better understanding of these risk factors associated with elder abuse in aging population will assist with both prevention and intervention. 

Author Biographies

Polly Yeung, Massey University

Polly Yeung is the Senior Lecturer in the School of Social Work and also a research team member of the Health and Ageing Research Team (HART) at Massey University, Palmerston North.

Lareen Cooper, Massey University

Lareen Cooper is Associate Head of School of Social Work at Massey University, Palmerston North. 

Michael Dale, Massey University

Michael Dale is a Senior Lecturer at the School of Social Work, Massey University, Palmerston North. 


Acierno, R., Hernandez, M.A., Amstadter, A.B., Resnick, H.S., Steve, K., Muzzy, W., & Kilpatrick, D.G. (2010). Prevalence and correlates of emotional, physical, sexual, neglectful, and financial abuse in the United States: The national elder mistreatment study. American Journal of Public Health, 100(2), 292-297.

Acierno, R., Ruggiero, K.J., Galea, S., Resnick, H.S., Koenen, K., Roitzsch, J., …Kilpatrick, D.G. (2007). Psycholog- ical sequelae resulting from the 2004 Florida Hurricanes: Implications for postdisaster intervention. Research

& Practice, 97, S103-S108.

Age Concern New Zealand Inc. (2005). Age concern elder abuse and neglect prevention services: An analysis of referrals for the period: 1 July 2002 to 30 June 2004. Author, Wellington.

Age Concern New Zealand Inc. (2006). National action plan and national reference group report. Author, Wellington. Age Concern New Zealand Inc. (2015). Elder abuse and neglect prevention. Retrieved from https://www.ageconcern.

Amstadter, A. B., Zajac, K., Strachan, M., Hernandez, M. A., Kilpatrick, D. G., & Acierno, R. (2011). Prevalence and correlates of elder mistreatment in South Carolina: The South Carolina elder mistreatment study. Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 26, 2947-2972.

Anderson, E.M., Malmgren, J.A., Carter, W.B., & Patrick, D.L. (1994). Screening for depression in well older adults: Evaluation of a short form of the CES-D. American Journal of Preventive Medicine, 10, 77–84.

Ansello, E.F., & O’Neill, P. (2010). Abuse, neglect, and exploitation: Considerations in aging with lifelong disabilities.

Journal of Elder Abuse & Neglect, 22, 105-130.

Arai, M. (2006). Elder abuse in Japan. Educational Gerontology, 32 (1), 13-23.

Baker, A. A. (1975). Granny-battering. Modern Geriatrics, 5, 20–24.

Bergeron, L., & Gray, L. (2003). Ethical dilemmas of reporting suspected elder abuse. Social Work, 48(1), 96-105.

Biggs, S., & Haapala, I. (2010). Theoretical development and elder mistreatment: The management of socio-emo-

tional boundaries. Ageing International, 35, 171–184.

Biggs, S., Manthorpe, J., Tinker, A., Doyle, M., & Erens, B. (2009). Mistreatment of older people in the United King- dom: Findings from the first national prevalence study. Journal of Elder Abuse & Neglect, 21, 1-14.

Boldy, D., Horner, B., Crouchley, K., Davey, M., & Boylen, S. (2005). Addressing elder abuse: Western Australian case study. Australasian Journal on Ageing, 24(1), 3-8.

Burston, G. R. (1975). ‘Granny battering.’ British Medical Journal, 3(5983), 592.

Choi, N.G., & Mayer, J. (2000). Elder abuse, neglect, and exploitation: Risk factors and prevention strategies. Journal of Gerontological Social Work, 33(2), 5-25.

Cohen, S., Janicki-Deverts, D., & Miller, G.E. (2007). Psychological stress and disease. Journal of American Medical Association, 298, 1685-1687.

Comijs, H.C., Jonker, C., van Tilburg, W., & Smit J.H., (1999). Hostility and coping capacity as risk factors of elder mistreatment. Social Psychiatry & Psychiatric Epidemiology, 34, 48-52.

Comijs, H.C., Penninx, B.W.J.H., Knipscheer, K.P.M & van Tilburg, W. (1999). Psychological distress in victims of elder mistreatment: The eff of social support and coping. Journal Gerontology: Social Sciences, 54B, S240-S244.

Compton, S.A., Flanagan, P., & Gregg, W. (1997). Elder abuse in people with dementia in Northern Ireland: Prevalence and predictors in cases referred to a psychiatry of old age service. International Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry, 12, 632–35.

Cooney, C., & Mortimer, A. (1995). Elder abuse and dementia – A pilot study. International Journal of Social Psychi- atry, 41, 276-283.

Cooper, C., Selwood, A., & Livingston, G. (2008). The prevalence of elder abuse and neglect: A systematic review.

Age and Aging, 37, 151-160.

Dayton, C. (2005). Elder abuse: The social worker’s perspective. Clinical Gerontologist, 28(1-2), 135-155.

De Jong Gierveld, J. (1987). Developing and testing a model of loneliness. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 53, 119-28.

Dong, X. (2005). Medical implications of elder abuse and neglect. Clinics in Geriatric Medicine, 21, 293–313.

Dong, X., Beck, T., & Simon, M.A. (2009). The associations of gender, depression, and elder mistreatment in a community-dwelling Chinese population: The modifying effect of social support. Archives of Gerontology and Geriatrics, 50, 202-208.

Dong, X., Chen, R., Fulmer, T., & Simon, M. (2014). Prevalence and correlates of elder mistreatment in a communi- ty-dwelling population of U.S. Chinese older adults. Journal of Aging and Health, 26(7), 1209-1224.

Dong, X., Simon, M.A., & Gorbien, M.J. (2007). Elder abuse and neglect in an urban Chinese population. Journal of Elder & Abuse Neglect, 19(3-4), 79-96.

Dong, X., Simon, M.A., Gorbien, M., Percak, J., & Golden, R. (2007). Loneliness in older Chinese adults: A risk factor for elder mistreatment. Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, 55, 1831-1835.

Dong, X., Simon, M.A., Leon, C.M., Fulmer, T., Beck, T., Evans, D. (2009). Elder self-neglect and abuse and mortality risk in a community-dwelling population. Journal of the American Medical Association, 302, 517-526.

Dong, X., Simon, M.A., Odwazny, R., & Gorbien, M.J. (2008). Depression and elder abuse and neglect among a community-dwelling Chinese elderly population. Journal of Elder Abuse & Neglect, 20, 25-41.

Fallon, P. (2006). Elder abuse and/or neglect: Literature review. Wellington: Ministry of Social Development.

Faye, B., & Sellick, M. (2003). Advocare’s speak out survey ‘S.O.S.’ on elder abuse. Retrieved from http://apeawa.

Fisher, B.S., & Regan, S.L. (2006). The extent and frequency of abuse in the lives of older women and their relation- ship with health outcomes. Gerontologist, 46, 200-209.

Fulmer, T., Guadano, L., Dyer, C., & Connolly, M.T. (2004). Progress in elder abuse assessment instruments. Journal of American Geriatric Society, 52, 297–304.

Garre-Olmo, J., Planas-Pujol, X., Lopez-Pousa, S., Juvinya, D., Vila, A., & Vilalta-Franch, J. (2009). Prevalence and risk factors of suspected elder abuse subtypes in people aged 75 and older. Journal of the American Geriatric Society, 57, 815–922.

Grant Thornton New Zealand Inc. (2010). Aged residential care review. Auckland: Author.

Griffin, L.W. (1994). Elder maltreatment among rural African-Americans. Journal of Elder Abuse & Neglect, 6(1), 1-28.

Harbison, J., & Morrow, M. (1998). Re-examining the social construction of ‘elder abuse and neglect’: A Canadian perspective. Ageing and Society, 18, 691-711.

Harbison, J., Coughlan, S., Beaulieu, M., Karabanow, J., VanderPlaat, M., Wildeman, S., & Wexler, E. (2012). Un- derstanding ‘elder abuse and neglect’: A critique of assumptions underpinning responses to the mistreatment and neglect of older people. Journal of Elder Abuse & Neglect, 22(2), 88-103.

Hong, B., Leniston, P., & Keys, F. (2004). A review of elder abuse and neglect prevention services in New Zealand. Wel- lington: Office for Senior Citizens, Ministry of Social Development.

Hwalek, M. A., & Sengstock, M. C. (1986). Assessing the probability of abuse in the elderly: Toward development of a clinical screening instrument. Journal of Applied Gerontology, 5, 153-173.

James, M., Grayar, A., & Mayhew, P. (2003). A safe and secure environment for older Australians. Retrieved from http://

Jensen, J., Spittal, M., Crichton, S., Sathiyandra, S., & Krishnan, V. (2002). Direct measurement of living standards: The New Zealand ELSI scale. Wellington, New Zealand: Ministry of Social Development.

Johannesen, M., & LoGiudice, D. (2013). Elder abuse: A systematic review of risk factors in community-dwelling elders. Age and Ageing, 42, 292-298.

Klein, A., Tobin, T., Salomon, A., & Dubois, J. (2008). A statewide profile of abuse of older women and the criminal justice responses (NCJ 222459).

Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Justice, National Institute of Justice.

Kosberg, J. I., & Garcia, J. L. (1995). Common and unique themes on elder abuse from a world-wide perspective.

Journal of Elder Abuse & Neglect, 6, 183–197.

Kurrle, S., & Naughtin, G. (2008). An overview of elder abuse and neglect in Australia. Journal of Elder Abuse & Neglect, 20(2), 108-125.

Lachs, M.S., & Pillemer, K.A. (2004). Elder abuse. The Lancet, 364, 1263-1272.

Lachs, M.S., Williams, C., O’Brien, S., Hurst, L., & Horwitz, R. (1997). Risk factors for reported elder abuse and neglect: A nine-year observational cohort study. Gerontologist, 37, 469-474.

Lachs, M.S., Williams, C., O’Brien, S., & Pillemer, K.A. (2002). Adult protective service home use and nursing home placement. Gerontologist, 42, 734–39.

Lachs, M.S., Williams, C.S., O’Brien, S., Pillemer, K.A., & Charlson, M.E. (1998). The mortality of elder mistreatment.

Journal of the American Medical Association, 280, 482-474.

Laumann, E.O., Leitsch, S.A., & Waite, L.J. (2008). Elder mistreatment in the United States: Prevalence estimates from a nationally representative study. Journal of Gerontology, 63, S248-S254.

Lindert, J., de Luna, J., Torres-Gonzales, T., Barros, H., Ioannidi-Kopolou, E., Melchiorre, M.G., Soares, J. (2013). Abuse and neglect of older persons in seven cities in seven countries in Europe: A cross-sectional community study. International Journal of Public Health, 58, 121-132.

Livermore, P., Bunt, R., & Biscan, K. (2001). Elder abuse among clients and carers referred to the Central Coast ACAT: A descriptive analysis. Australasian Journal on Ageing, 20(1), 41-47.

Lowenstein, A., Eisikovits, Z., Band-Winterstein, T., & Enosh, G. (2009). Is elder abuse and neglect a social phenom- enon? Data from the First National Prevalence Survey in Israel. Journal of Elder Abuse & Neglect, 21, 253–277.

Luo, Y., & Waite, L. (2011). Mistreatment and psychological well-being among older adults: Exploring the role of psychosocial resources and deficits. Journal of Gerontology, 66B(2), 217-229.

McCreadie, C. (1996). Elder abuse: Update on research. London: Age Concern and Institute of Gerontology. McCreadie, C. (2003). The nature of elder abuse. In S. Amiel & I. Heath. (Eds.), Family violence in primary care.

Oxford: Oxford University Press.

McDonald, L., & Collins, A. (2000). Abuse and neglect of older adults: A discussion paper. Health Canada, Ottawa: Family Violence Prevention Unit.

Mouton, C.P. (2003). Intimate partner violence and health status among older women. Violence Against Women, 9, 1465-1477.

National Centre on Elder Abuse. (2005). Fact sheet. Domestic violence: Older women can be victims too. Washington, DC: Author.

Nerenberg, L. (2008). Elder abuse prevention: Emerging trends and promising strategies. New York: Springer Publishing Company.

New Zealand Aged Care Association (NZACA) and Grey Power NZ Inc.

(2013). An aged care commissioner in New Zealand. NZACA.

Newton, J.P. (2010). Elder abuse – an issue not to be ignored. Gerodontology, 27(2), 83-84.

Payne, B.K. (2008). Training adult protective services workers about domestic violence: Training needs and strat- egies. Violence Against Women, 14(10), 1199-1213.

Pearlin, L.I., Schieman, S., Fazio, E.M., & Meersman, S.C. (2005). Stress, health, and the life course: Some conceptual perspectives. Journal of Health & Social Behaviour, 46, 205-219.

Perel-Levin, S. (2008). Discussing screening for elder abuse at primary health care level. Geneva: WHO.

Pillemer, K., & Finkelhor, D. (1998). The prevalence of elder abuse: Random sample survey. The Gerontologist, 28, 51-57.

Pillemer K., & Prescott, D. (1989). Psychological effects of elder abuse: A research note. Journal of Elder Abuse and Neglect, 1(1), 65-73.

Poole, C., & Rietschlin, J. (2012). Intimate partner victimization among adults aged 60 and older: An analysis of the 1999 and 2004 general social survey. Journal of Elder Abuse & Neglect, 24, 120–137.

Pritchard, J. (1995). The abuse of older people (2nd ed). London: Jessica Kingsley Publishers.

Rabiner, D.J., O’Keeffe, J., & Brown, D. (2004). A conceptual framework of financial exploitation of older persons. Journal of Elder Abuse & Neglect, 16(2), 53-72.

Racic, M., Kusmuk, S., Kozomara, L., Develnogic, B., & Tepic, R. (2006). The prevalence of mistreatment among the elderly with mental disorders in primary healthcare settings. The Journal of Adult Protection, 8, 20–24.

Reay, A.M., & Browne, K.D. (2001). Risk factor characteristics in carers who physically abuse or neglect their elderly dependents. Aging & Mental Health, 5, 56–62.

Schofield, M. J., & Mishra, G. D. (2003). Validity of self-report screening scale for elder abuse: Women’s health Australia study. Gerontologist, 43, 110-120.

Schofield, M.J., Reynolds, R., Mishra, G.D., Powers, J.R., & Dobson, A.J. (2002). Screening for vulnerability to abuse among older women: Women’s health Australia study. Journal of Applied Gerontology, 21(1), 24-39.

Shilling, D. (2010). Improving the court system’s response to elder abuse. Victimization of the Elderly and Disabled, 11(49), 51-52, 62-63.

Tabachnick, B. G., & Fidell, L. S. (2007). Using multivariate statistics (5th ed.). Boston, MA: Allyn and Bacon.

Teaster, P., Harley, D., & Kettaneh, A. (2014). Aging and mistreatment: Victimization of older adults in the United States. The Collective Spirit of Aging Across Cultures, International Perspectives on Aging, 9, 41-64.

Teaster, P., Otto, J., Dugar, T., Mendiondo, M.S., Abner, E., & Cecil, K. (2006). The 2004 survey of state adult protective services: Abuse of adults 60 years of age and older. Washington, DC: National Centre on Elder Abuse.

Thoits, P.A. (1995). Stress, coping, and social support process: Where are we? What next? Journal of Health & Social Behaviour, 35 (Special Issue), 53-79.

Towers, A. (2007). Health, work and retirement survey: Methodology. Retrieved 13 May, 2013, from http://hwr.massey.

Towers, A. & Stevenson, B. (2014). The New Zealand Longitudinal Study of Ageing, Summary Report – NZLSA Cohort Profile. Retrieved 5 May, 2015, from Humanities%20and%20Social%20Sciences/Psychology/HART/publications/reports/Cohort_profile_NZL- SA_2014.pdf?A683FFE1BBBD233A08D293E9F20A97BA.

Towers, A., Yeung, P., Stevenson, B., Stephens, C. & Alpass, F. (2014). Quality of life in indigenous and non-indige- nous older adults: Assessing the CASP-12 factor structure and identifying a brief CASP-3. Quality of Life (first

online): DOI 10.1007/s11136-014-0756-y.

Wahl, J., & Purdy, S. (2005). Elder abuse: The hidden crime. Toronto, ON: Advocacy Centre for the Elderly and Com- munity Legal Education Ontario.

Ware, J. E., Kosinski, M., & Dewey, J. E. (2000). How to score version 2 of the SF-36 Health Survey. Lincoln, RI: Quality Metric Incorporated.

Wolf, R. (2000). Introduction: The nature and scope of elder abuse. Generations, 24, 6-11. World Health Organisation. (2002). Active ageing: A police framework. Geneva: Author.

World Health Organisation. (2011). Elder maltreatment, Fact sheet N°357, August 2011 (Available from: http:// on dated July 12).

World Health Organisation (WHO). (2012). Aging and life course. Retrieved 24 March, 2014 from http://www.who. int/ageing/projects/edler_abuse/en

Yaffe, M.J., Weiss, D., Wolfson, C., & Lithwick, M. (2007). Detection and prevalence of abuse of older males: Per- spectives from family practice. Journal of Elder Abuse & Neglect, 19, 47-60.




How to Cite

Yeung, P., Cooper, L., & Dale, M. (2015). Prevalence and associated factors of elder abuse in a community-dwelling population of Aotearoa New Zealand: A cross-sectional study. Aotearoa New Zealand Social Work, 27(3), 29–43.