Elder abuse is a multifaceted and often hidden form of abuse. There is currently no national data on the prevalence of elder abuse in Australia. Based on international studies, it is estimated that between 2% and 14% of older people in high- or middle-income countries experience elder abuse every year. The term 'elder abuse' covers a range of harmful behaviours, including physical, emotional, sexual and financial abuse and neglect.

This paper provides an overview of elder abuse in Australia. It discusses key issues involved in how elder abuse is defined and examines its prevalence, impact and associated risk factors, with a focus on implications of recent research for policy and practice.

Key messages:

  • Elder abuse is a complex phenomenon that takes many forms, including physical, psychological, sexual and financial abuse and neglect.
  • An estimated 2-14% of older people in high- or middle-income countries are victims of abuse or neglect every year. Prevalence rates are likely to be much higher in institutional care settings than in community settings.
  • A range of factors associated with older people, perpetrators, relationships and broader contextual factors contribute to older people's risk of abuse and neglect. Emerging evidence suggests that social isolation and poor quality relationships are among the main risk factors associated with elder abuse in community settings.
  • Social support and healthy relationships with family members are key protective factors for older people at risk of abuse or neglect.
  • Research and evaluation on specific prevention and intervention strategies are needed to give a clearer understanding of what works to protect and promote the dignity of older Australians.
Publication Details


License type:
CFCA Paper no. 51