Rising abuse of elderly people impacts on health, wellbeing: WHO

GENEVA, June 14 (Xinhua) -- One in six elderly people aged 60 and over, particularly in low- and middle-income countries, suffers various forms of abuse, inflicting an impact on their health and wellbeing, a latest study by the World Health Organization says on Wednesday.

The study, supported by the WHO and published in the Lancet Global Health, draws on the best available evidence from 52 studies in 28 countries from different regions, including 12 low- and middle-income countries.

It has found that almost 16% of people aged 60 years and older were subjected to either psychological abuse, financial abuse, neglect, physical abuse or sexual abuse.

The most pervasive, for example, is psychological abuse, which includes behaviors that harm an older person's self-worth or wellbeing, such as name calling, scaring, embarrassing, destroying property, or preventing them from seeing friends and family.

All forms of the abuse can have health effects on the aged, such as traumatic injury and pain, depression, stress and anxiety, and hence a possible increased risk of nursing home placement, use of emergency services, hospitalization and death.

"Despite the frequency and the serious health consequences, elder abuse remains one of the least investigated types of violence in national surveys, and one of the least addressed in national plans to prevent violence," says Alana Officer, Senior Health Adviser, Department of Ageing and Life Course at WHO.

"We must do much more to prevent and respond to the increasing frequency of different forms of abuse."

By 2050, the number of people aged 60 and over will double to reach two billion globally, with the vast majority of older people living in low- and middle-income countries, the study says.

If the proportion of elder abuse victims remains constant, the number of people affected will increase rapidly due to population ageing, growing to 320 million victims by 2050.

To address the situation, health ministers from the globe adopted the WHO Global Strategy and Action Plan on Ageing and Health at the World Health Assembly in May 2016.

Priority would be given to improving studies on the frequency of elder abuse, particularly in low- and middle-income countries from South-East Asia, Middle East and Africa, where little data had been available.

The WHO strategy would also collect evidence and develop guidance on what works to effectively prevent and respond to elder abuse.

The UN General Assembly has also designated June 15 as World Elder Abuse Awareness Day, for the whole world to voice its opposition to the abuse on and suffering of the older generations.

[ Editor: Wang Peiyao ]
 

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