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PLoS By Category | Recent PLoS Articles
Science Policy

Social Support, Socio-Economic Status, Health and Abuse among Older People in Seven European Countries
Published: Wednesday, January 30, 2013
Author: Maria Gabriella Melchiorre et al.

by Maria Gabriella Melchiorre, Carlos Chiatti, Giovanni Lamura, Francisco Torres-Gonzales, Mindaugas Stankunas, Jutta Lindert, Elisabeth Ioannidi-Kapolou, Henrique Barros, Gloria Macassa, Joaquim F. J. Soares

Background

Social support has a strong impact on individuals, not least on older individuals with health problems. A lack of support network and poor family or social relations may be crucial in later life, and represent risk factors for elder abuse. This study focused on the associations between social support, demographics/socio-economics, health variables and elder mistreatment.

Methods

The cross-sectional data was collected by means of interviews or interviews/self-response during January-July 2009, among a sample of 4,467 not demented individuals aged 60–84 years living in seven European countries (Germany, Greece, Italy, Lithuania, Portugal, Spain, and Sweden).

Results

Multivariate analyses showed that women and persons living in large households and with a spouse/partner or other persons were more likely to experience high levels of social support. Moreover, frequent use of health care services and low scores on depression or discomfort due to physical complaints were indicators of high social support. Low levels of social support were related to older age and abuse, particularly psychological abuse.

Conclusions

High levels of social support may represent a protective factor in reducing both the vulnerability of older people and risk of elder mistreatment. On the basis of these results, policy makers, clinicians and researchers could act by developing intervention programmes that facilitate friendships and social activities in old age.

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