U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Health Resources and Services Administration

Function Navigation

Bookmark and Share

Injury and Abuse

The consequences of injuries can often be controlled by either preventing or lessening the impact of an injurious event. This can occur through education, enactment and enforcement of policies and laws, and improvements in emergency care. Some examples of efforts to prevent injury and falls among older Americans include home-modification interventions, communitybased exercise interventions, and guidelines recommending that physicians ask about falls as part of a patient’s routine physical exam.1

Despite efforts to prevent injuries among older adults, the rate of unintentional injury treated in hospital emergency departments has increased by 12.1 percent among women aged 65 years and older, from 82.9 per 1,000 women in 2001 to 92.9 per 1,000 women in 2008 (data not shown). Falls were the most commonly reported cause of injury reported by older women, followed by being struck by or against an object. Rates of fall-related injuries and being struck by or against an object increase as age increases, while rates of injuries sustained as a motor vehicle occupant and being cut or pierced by an object decrease with age. Women aged 80 years and older were most likely to have suffered a fall-related injury (110.0 per 1,000 women), compared to 49.3 per 1,000 women aged 70–79 years and 33.3 per 1,000 women aged 65–69 years.

Statistics regarding the criminal victimization and abuse of older adults have not been uniformly and consistently collected and reported. In 2006, rates of violent crimes for adults aged 65 and older were 2.1 per 1,000 women and 5.0 per 1,000 men.2 Despite these low rates, it is estimated that 2–10 percent of older adults may be victims of elder abuse, and that only 1 in 14 incidents are reported to authorities (data not shown).3 Elder abuse takes many forms, including physical abuse; neglect; emotional or psychological abuse; financial exploitation; and sexual abuse.

A survey of State Adult Protective Services agencies found that, in 2004, women were more likely to be victims of reported elder abuse (65.7 percent; 15 states reporting), and that the most common forms of substantiated abuse for all adults were self-neglect (37.2 percent) and caregiver neglect (20.4 percent; 19 states reporting). Nearly 15 percent of cases each were for financial exploitation and emotional, psychological, or verbal abuse.

1 American Geriatrics Society.  Position Paper:  Guideline for the Prevention of falls in Older Persons.  Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.  2001; 49: 664-672.  http://www.americangeriatrics.org, accessed 01/11/10.
2 U.S. Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics.  Criminal Victimization in the United States – Statistical Tables: Demography of victims (2006).  [Online] August 28, 2008.  http://bjs.ojp.usdoj.gov/, accessed 01/12/10.
3 National Center on Elder Abuse.  Fact Sheet:  Elder Abuse Prevalence and Incidence.  2005.  http://www.ncea.aoa.gov/ncearoot/Main_Site/index.aspx, accessed 01/12/10.

Back to Top