PLoS By Category | Recent PLoS Articles

Geriatrics - Public Health and Epidemiology

Prevalence and Associated Factors of Elder Mistreatment in a Rural Community in People's Republic of China: A Cross-Sectional Study
Published: Tuesday, March 20, 2012
Author: Li Wu et al.

by Li Wu, Hui Chen, Yang Hu, Huiyun Xiang, Xiang Yu, Tao Zhang, Zhongqiang Cao, Youjie Wang


Current knowledge about elder mistreatment is mainly derived from studies done in Western countries, which indicate that this problem is related to risk factors such as a shared living situation, social isolation, disease burden, and caregiver strain. We know little about prevalence and risk factors for elder mistreatment and mistreatment subtypes in rural China where the elder population is the most vulnerable.


In 2010, we conducted a cross-sectional survey among older adults aged 60 or older in three rural communities in Macheng, a city in Hubei province, China. Of 2245 people initially identified, 2039 were available for interview and this was completed in 2000. A structured questionnaire was used to collect data regarding mistreatment and covariates. Logistic regression analysis was used to identify factors related to elder mistreatment and subtypes of mistreatment.


Elder mistreatment was reported by 36.2% (95% CI: 34.1%–38.3%) of the participants. Prevalence rates of psychological mistreatment, caregiver neglect, physical mistreatment, and financial mistreatment were 27.3% (95% CI: 25.3%–29.2%), 15.8% (95% CI: 14.2%–17.4%), 4.9% (95% CI: 3.9%–5.8%) and 2.0% (95% CI: 1.3%–2.6%), respectively. The multivariate logistic regression analysis revealed that depression, being widowed/divorced/single/separated, having a physical disability, having a labor intensive job, depending solely on self-made income, and living alone were risk factors for elder mistreatment. Different types of elder mistreatment were associated with different risk factors, and depression was the consistent risk factor for the three most common mistreatment subtypes.


Older adults in rural China self-report a higher rate of mistreatment than their counterparts in Western countries. Depression is a main risk factor associated with most subtypes of mistreatment. Our findings suggest that prevention and management of elder mistreatment is a challenge facing a rapidly aging Chinese population.