Elder abuse in America is one of the most serious underreported social issues of our time, but new research seems to show that it might be an even greater problem among minority populations. 3,157 elderly Chinese Americans were surveyed in a new study that discovered previously unknown connections between those who suffered abuse as children and those who suffered abuse as adults.
Those who were subject to abuse when they were kids were nearly twice as likely to become subject to elder abuse. This connection extended to domestic violence. Participants were also twice as likely to report an aggressive or violent environment at home, usually involving a romantic partner.
The findings were reported and published online in JAMA Internal Medicine on May 20, 2019.
Why is it that some people are more likely to be subject to abuse over a lifetime than others? Even outside of minority populations, those who are subject to violence once seem to be at greater risk in the future. The study did acknowledge that these connections had yet to be studied at any length among those who were victims of elder abuse.
Rutgers Institute for Health, Health Care Policy and Aging Research Director XinQi Dong believes the survey sheds light upon an ongoing problem that requires a lot more attention: “This study suggests that health care professionals should be more aware of how abuse earlier in life can predispose one to more violence as this population ages.”
About fifteen percent of elderly Chinese Americans over the age of sixty were found to have reported elder abuse, while about eleven percent reported domestic violence between the ages of eighteen and fifty-nine. Seven percent reported child abuse, suggesting that those who were abused when they were younger may actually have an even greater chance of being victimized when they are older.
Male participants were more likely to report child abuse, while female participants were more likely to report domestic violence. Those with greater education were more likely to report elder abuse, but the survey’s authors were quick to point out that this does not necessarily mean those who are more educated are more likely to experience elder abuse. More likely, those who are more educated find themselves more willing to share their experiences or attempt to find themselves mental health support.
The survey also confirms that primary care providers need to do more to ascertain if patients are subject to violence throughout life, especially in light of the likelihood of revictimization of those who were abused as children.