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Gerontology 2008;54:381–388

Is Greater Social Support a Protective Factor against Elder Mistreatment?

Dong X.a · Simon M.A.b
aDepartment of Internal Medicine, Rush University Medical Center, and bDepartment of Obstetrics/Gynecology, Northwestern Medical Center, Chicago, Ill., USA
email Corresponding Author

 goto top of outline Key Words

  • Elder mistreatment
  • Social support
  • Chinese population

 goto top of outline Abstract

Background: Elder mistreatment (EM) is a pervasive global health issue and a violation of basic human rights. Our prior study indicates that EM is alarmingly common in an urban Chinese population, yet little is known about risk and/or protective factors for EM. Objective: This study’s goal was to examine the association of social support with the risk of EM and underlying hypothesis is that greater social support is associated with a lower risk for EM. Methods: A cross-sectional descriptive study was performed in a major urban medical center in Nanjing, China. A total of 412 subjects aged 60 years or older who presented to the general medical clinic were surveyed. Social support was assessed using validated instruments Social Support Index (SSI); direct questions were asked about their mistreatment since age 60 using the modified Vulnerability to Abuse Screening Scale (VASS). Results: EM was found in 35% of the participants. After adjusting for potential confounding factors, several factors were associated with a lower risk of mistreatment: having someone to listen to and talk to (OR = 0.18, 95% CI, 0.08–0.39), having someone to get you good advice from (OR = 0.15 (0.07–0.34)), having someone to show love and affection to (OR = 0.30 (0.12–0.75)), having someone available who can help with daily chores (OR = 0.43 (0.22–0.85)), having contact with someone they can trust and confide in (OR = 0.08 (0.03–0.23)), and having someone they can count on for emotional support (OR = 0.11 (0.04–0.28)). Regarding total social support scores (range 1–32), every point higher in social support was associated with a 6% lower risk for EM (OR = 0.94 (0.91–0.97)). Greater social support was associated with a 59% lower risk for EM (OR = 0.41 (0.19–0.90)). Conclusion: Greater social support may be a protective factor against EM in this population. Prospective studies are needed to confirm this finding. Interventions that improve social support may prevent EM.

Copyright © 2008 S. Karger AG, Basel

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 goto top of outline Author Contacts

XinQi Dong, MD
Section of Geriatric Medicine, Department of Internal Medicine
Rush University Medical Center
Chicago, IL 60612 (USA)
Tel. +1 312 942 6087, Fax +1 312 563 4212, E-Mail

 goto top of outline Article Information

Received: December 21, 2007
Accepted: April 22, 2008
Published online: July 7, 2008
Number of Print Pages : 8
Number of Figures : 2, Number of Tables : 2, Number of References : 33

 goto top of outline Publication Details

Gerontology (International Journal of Experimental, Clinical, Behavioural and Technological Gerontology)

Vol. 54, No. 6, Year 2008 (Cover Date: November 2008)

Journal Editor: Wick G. (Innsbruck)
ISSN: 0304–324X (Print), eISSN: 1423–0003 (Online)

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