One in six older adults abused globally, one in five in India, says WHO
Around one in six older people experience some form of abuse, a number predicted to rise as the global population of people above 60 years more than doubles from 900 million in 2015 to about 2 billion in 2050, said the World Health Organisation. The national estimate for India is one in five people.
June 15 is World Elder Abuse Awareness Day.
Close to 16% of people aged 60 years and older are psychologically abused, financially exploited, neglected, physically hurt or sexually abused, found a WHO-supported study published in the Lancet Global Health that draws data from 52 studies in 28 countries, including India.
The national estimates of past-year abuse prevalence rate varied widely, from between 43.7 in Egypt, 36.2% in China, 29.3% in Spain and 20.8% in India to 2.6% in the UK.
The rates of abuse are higher for older people living in institutions than in the community.
“The abuse of older people is on the rise; for the 141 million older persons worldwide this has serious individual and societal costs,” says Alana Officer, senior health adviser, department of ageing and life course, WHO Geneva.
“Despite the frequency and the serious health consequences, elder abuse remains one of the least investigated types of violence in national surveys, and one of the least addressed in national plans to prevent violence.”
Psychological abuse is the most pervasive and includes behaviours that harm an older person’s self-worth or well-being such as name calling, scaring, embarrassing, destroying property or preventing them from seeing friends and family. Financial abuse includes misusing money, property or assets, while neglect is the failure to meet basic needs, such as food, housing, clothing and medical care.
Abuse can lead to depression, stress, anxiety, traumatic injury and pain and hospitalisation. A 13-year follow-up study found that victims of elder abuse are twice more likely to die prematurely than people who are not victims of elder abuse.
In May 2016, Ministers of Health adopted the WHO Global Strategy and Action Plan on Ageing and Health at the World Health Assembly that includes improving data on frequency of elder abuse, developing guidance to effectively prevent and respond to elder abuse, evaluating existing efforts and improving response.