Mistreatment and Psychological Well-being Among Older Adults: Exploring the Role of Psychosocial Resources and Deficits

Department of Sociology & Anthropology, Clemson University, Clemson, SC 29634, USA.
The Journals of Gerontology Series B Psychological Sciences and Social Sciences (Impact Factor: 3.21). 03/2011; 66(2):217-29. DOI: 10.1093/geronb/gbq096
Source: PubMed


To examine the relationships between psychosocial resources and deficits, elder mistreatment, and psychological well-being.
We used a representative sample of 2,744 older adults aged 57-85 years in the United States from the National Social Life, Health and Aging Project. We examined reports of any mistreatment (verbal, financial, or physical) and multiple types of mistreatment.
Lower levels of positive support, higher levels of criticism from close relationships, and feelings of social isolation are positively associated with self-reported mistreatment experience. As suggested by the stress process theory, those who reported mistreatment experience also reported lower levels of global happiness and higher levels of psychological distress. There is also some evidence for the buffering hypothesis--levels of global happiness are higher and levels of psychological distress are lower for older adults who reported any mistreatment if they also reported more positive social support, social participation, and feelings of social connection.
Older adults with fewer psychosocial resources or more psychosocial deficits seem to be more vulnerable to mistreatment, and mistreatment seems particularly detrimental to psychological well-being for these people.

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    • "Integrating interventions to improve psychological well-being into elder abuse services may offer the potential to reduce adverse effects of depression on victims as they take steps to resolve the abuse. Targeting improvements in social support and integration into the community also may mitigate victimization by reducing feelings of social isolation and thereby minimizing the consequences of mistreatment (Luo & Waite, 2011). "
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    • "It has been argued that older adults with fewer psychosocial resources or more psychosocial deficits seem to be more vulnerable to elder abuse, and elder abuse seems particularly detrimental to psychological well-being for victims [34]. Our data suggest that the increased social support from family, friends, and supports is viewed as amongst the most effective interventions in increasing psychosocial resources of victims. "
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