Elder Abuse: Consequences

Prevalence of Elder Abuse

Elder abuse, including neglect and exploitation, is experienced by an estimated one out of every ten people ages 60 and older who lives at home.

For every one case of elder abuse that is detected or reported, it is estimated that approximately 23 cases remain hidden.

Consequences of Elder Abuse

The possible physical and psychosocial consequences of elder abuse are numerous and varied. Few studies have extensively examined the long-term consequences of elder abuse and distinguished them from those linked to normal aging.

Physical Effects

The most immediate probable physical effects include:

  • Welts, wounds, and injuries (e.g., bruises, lacerations, dental problems, head injuries, broken bones, pressure sores)
  • Persistent physical pain and soreness
  • Nutrition and hydration issues
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Increased susceptibility to new illnesses (including sexually transmitted diseases)
  • Exacerbation of preexisting health conditions
  • Increased risks for premature death

Psychological Effects

Established psychological effects of elder abuse include high levels of distress and depression.

Other potential psychological consequences that need further scientific study are

  • Increased risks for developing fear and anxiety reactions
  • Learned helplessness
  • Posttraumatic stress disorder

See Elder Abuse Resources for articles, publications, and data sources about the consequences of elder abuse.