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One in seven older women is affected by different forms of abuse around the world

Yon Y, Mikton C, Gassoumis Z, Wilber KH.  The prevalence of self-reported elder abuse among older women in community settings: A systematic review and meta-analysis  Trauma, Violence & Abuse, January 2017: 1524838017697308.

Review question

•    What is the prevalence and the extent of abuse against women aged 60 years and over?

Background

      Abuse against older women is a violation of human rights and a significant public health problem according to the World Health Organization. Women in many societies experience significant inequities that render them vulnerable to poverty, poor health, and violence. With the increase in population aging, a growing number of older women may be at risk for abuse. Understanding the magnitude of the problem is an important step to develop violence-prevention strategies.

      This systematic review and meta-analysis collected evidence to gauge the prevalence of abuse against older women.

How the review was done

      This review searched through numerous databases for relevant research articles published up to June 2015. The searches used keywords such as: older adults, frail elderly, aged, elderly, seniors, elder abuse, elder neglect, elder mistreatment, elder maltreatment, domestic violence, intimate partner violence, abuse, violence, aggression, crimes, harmful behaviour, anger, rape, hostility, conflict, verbal abuse, physical abuse, sexual abuse, emotional abuse, prevalence, incidence, morbidity and epidemiology.

      A total of 38,544 studies were identified in searches, and 50 of these studies were included after assessing their eligibility.

      The authors declared no potential conflicts of interest nor external funding with respects to this systematic review.

What the researchers found

      Findings revealed that the global prevalence of abuse among older women was 14.1%, or about 1 in 7 older women. The review also estimated the prevalence of psychological abuse (11.8%), neglect (4.1%), financial abuse (3.8%), sexual abuse (2.2%), and physical abuse (1.9%).

      Prevalence estimates do vary depending on the regions, income classifications used in different countries, and the sample size of studies.

Conclusion

      Global action is needed to prevent and support victims of elder abuse. Abuse among older women, despite affecting 1 in 7 older women, is still receiving little attention from policymakers.

      Future research should focus on refining and standardizing the definitions and measurements of abuse against older women, especially in low-income and middle-income countries.

      Future research should also compare and examine abuse estimates by using different study periods (for example, over previous months or over a lifetime), as well as examine prevalence variations within each region of the World Health Organization.




Glossary

Meta-analysis
Advanced statistical methods contrasting and combining results from different studies.
Systematic review
A comprehensive evaluation of the available research evidence on a particular topic.

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DISCLAIMER These summaries are provided for informational purposes only. They are not a substitute for advice from your own health care professional. The summaries may be reproduced for not-for-profit educational purposes only. Any other uses must be approved by the McMaster Optimal Aging Portal (info@mcmasteroptimalaging.org).

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