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Elder abuse as a risk factor for psychological distress among older adults in India: a cross-sectional study


Objectives This study examines the association between elder abuse and psychological distress among older adults in India and explores whether this association varies by the level of psychosocial and material resources.

Design The study uses a cross-sectional survey design.

Setting The data are drawn from a representative sample of 9589 adults aged 60 and above in seven Indian states—Himachal Pradesh, Punjab, West Bengal, Odisha, Maharashtra, Kerala and Tamil Nadu—in 2011.

Statistical analyses Secondary analysis, using bivariate and multivariate logistic regression models, is conducted using the United Nations Population Fund project Building Knowledge Base on Ageing in India survey. Elder abuse (physical and/or emotional) emanating from family members in the previous month before the survey is examined. Multivariate models are run on the total analytical sample and for men and women separately.

Results The overall prevalence of psychological distress among persons aged 60 and over living in the seven Indian States is 40.6%. Among those older persons who experienced some form of physical or emotional abuse or violence in the last month, the prevalence of psychological distress is much higher than that in the general older population, at 61.6% (p<0.001). The results show that the experience of abuse is negatively associated with the mental health of older adults, and this relationship persists even after controlling for demographic and socioeconomic factors (OR=1.60, 95% CI 1.22 to 2.09). The findings also suggest that household wealth has an inverse relationship with mental health, with the association between experiencing elder abuse and reporting poor mental health being strongest among older people in wealthy households.

Conclusions Elder abuse in India is currently a neglected phenomenon, and greater recognition of the link between abuse and mental health is critical to improve the well-being of vulnerable older adults, some of whom may be ‘hidden’ within well-off households.

  • elder Aabuse
  • risk factors
  • mental health
  • psychological distress
  • india

This is an Open Access article distributed in accordance with the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY 4.0) license, which permits others to distribute, remix, adapt and build upon this work, for commercial use, provided the original work is properly cited. See:

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  • Contributors All authors ME, JF, MQ and AV contributed to conceptualising, writing, editing this paper and have read and approved the final manuscript. Data analysis was performed by MQ.

  • Funding The authors wish to acknowledge the support of colleagues inthe ESRC Centre for Population Change No. RES-625-28-0001 and ES/K007394/1, andthe ESRC GCRF Global Ageing and Long-Term Care Network (GALNet) No.ES/P006779/1.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Ethics approval The Ethics Committee in the University of Southampton.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

  • Data sharing statement No additional data are available.

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