Intended for healthcare professionals


Elder abuse

BMJ 2011; 343 doi: (Published 22 September 2011) Cite this as: BMJ 2011;343:d6027
  1. Martin Mulroy, specialist registrar,
  2. Desmond O’Neill, professor
  1. 1Centre for Ageing, Neuroscience, and the Humanities, Trinity College Dublin, Dublin 2, Ireland
  1. doneill{at}

Extends beyond health and social care to the financial and legal sectors

The European Regional Office of the World Health Organization recently published a report on preventing maltreatment of older people.1 Arising from WHO’s injury protection programme, the report summarises the scale of maltreatment and demographic shift within Europe; risk factors pertaining to both victim and perpetrator of elder abuse; the efficacy of programmes dedicated to combating the problem; and policies for prevention, detection, and management.

Maltreatment of older people (or elder abuse, as it is commonly termed) is a global problem, affecting millions of older people in Europe, where it is directly responsible for 2500 deaths a year. It is difficult to determine the exact prevalence given the varying definitions and social norms across Europe, particularly for the most common forms of elder abuse—psychological and financial abuse. A systematic review of the prevalence of elder abuse found that 6% of older people in the general population reported serious abuse in the previous month, with significantly higher rates among vulnerable older people.2 Dementia …

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