Older people who had been abused died at triple the rate of other elders during a 13-year study, researchers say.
The study of 2,812 men and women over the age of 65 is the first to gauge the effect of elder abuse outside institutions, said the researchers. Their findings appear in Wednesday's Journal of the American Medical Association, a theme issue on violence.Interestingly, no deaths among abused subjects occurred from inflicted injury, said researchers led by Dr. Mark S. Lachs of Cornell University Medical College in New York.
Rather, deaths among all the men and women studied resulted from heart disease, cancer, lung disease, accidental injuries and poisonings, researchers said.
The study involved residents of New Haven, Conn., who were over age 65 when the study began in 1982. The state has the nation's oldest law requiring elder abuse to be reported to authorities.
Researchers said there were 10 confirmed cases of abuse, 30 cases of neglect, eight cases of exploitation - defined as taking advantage of an older person for profit - and 128 cases of self-neglect.
Over 13 years of follow-up, survival among the first three groups was 9 percent, compared to 17 percent among self-neglected subjects and 40 percent among others.
After adjusting for other differences affecting life expectancy, such as age, mistreated subjects had triple the death rate of well-treated ones, authors said.
Mistreatment may be a form of "negative social support" that creates enough stress to hasten death from other causes, authors said.