28.04.2016 - 26.12.2019

HARMED: Socioeconomic and health determinants of elder abuse


Financing Instituitions


Despite the growing visibility of elder abuse as both a social [3] and a public health problem [14], little attention has been paid to the relationship between elder abuse and the socioeconomic crisis that currently affects all Europe and Portugal in particular.
Portuguese scholars have been focusing either on the analysis of the prevalence of the phenomenon or on the dynamics of violence experienced by victims aged 60 and over [9] [2] [22] [7]. Several studies have pointed to some risk factors associated to elder abuse: socioeconomic inequalities [7]; the lack of social and familial support network; the decline of general health [15] [22]. The starting point of this project is the need to fill in the gap on elder abuse studies by focusing on the effects of the socioeconomic crisis. The broad research hypothesis is that the recent economic recession has both indirect and direct effects on elder abuse: on one hand, it shows and interactive effect that increases the risk for those that are already at structural risk; on the other hand, it brings additional strain that translates into increased prevalence.


The research project will start from the EPIPorto database. EPIPorto is a cohort of 2485 adult residents in Porto, an urban center in the northwest of Portugal, which was assembled between 1999 and 2003 [20] [21]. The first follow-up evaluation of this cohort was carried from 2005 to 2008 and 66% (n = 1640) of the total cohort was reevaluated [19]. The second follow-up is now in progress (20142015).
This research proposal will create the conditions for the next wave of the study in 20162018.
It will focus on the elderly participants from the initial cohort with the specific purpose of: reassessing their socioeconomic conditions and testing if the decline or deterioration of those has had any impact on to the occurrence of aggressive and abusive behavior (eg physical abuse, verbal, financial, neglect); analyzing general health indicators and their effects as determinants of vulnerability towards abuse; characterizing the neighborhoods where individuals live, according to their socioeconomic status, in order to identify risk factors associated with these areas.


As part of the research goals, we also plan to assess whether there was a change in prevalence, dynamics and type of abuse among individuals that have participated in the EPIPorto cohort [20] [21] and were analyzed under the project "Abuse of the elderly in the European region" (Abuel) [22]. This is the crosssectional European study of communitydwelling elderly populations aged 6084 years in Germany, Greece, Italy, Lithuania, Portugal, Spain and Sweden, carried out from January to July 2009 [11]. Additionally, this project will involve a qualitative study designed to allow for an indepth analysis of victimization trajectories of the elderly whose abusive situations were identified in 2009 [7] and to assess whether there was a change of abuse conditions, what has changed and why. Qualitative interviews will be organized with a purposive sample of abused individuals. The topics that will be addressed during the interviews include: changes in profiles of abuse and perpetrators and their association with the economic crisis; the worsening of health conditions and physical and/or cognitive dependence; relationships with carers and coresidents. In short, by combining a quantitative with qualitative approach the goal is to discuss what we argue is a cluster effect of accumulation of socioeconomic disadvantages and health conditions that together increase the vulnerability of older people and the risk of abuse.


The research team includes a group of researchers from different research units and disciplines, combining knowledge and skills able to capture the multidimensionality of the proposed objectives. Moreover it includes researchers that are well trained and experienced in quantitative and qualitative methodologies. The team also has a wide range of publications in the area of abuse [7] [8] [3], poverty and care for the elderly [6].


The IR has published a doctoral thesis on domestic violence in Portugal [3] and has numerous other publications in this area, including in the field of elder abuse. She is familiar with the main national and international surveys on the general theme of elder abuse and has consolidated experience in the field of research design research, with a focus on qualitative methodologies.
The IR has been part of both international and national teams of relevant research projects: DOVE: Domestic Violence against women / men in Europe: Prevalence, determinants, effects and policies / practices funded by PHEA Public Health Executive Agency; Module 65+ funded by FCT PTDC/ CSSOC/ 117593/2010; Digital Inclusion and Participation Comparing the trajectories of digital medium use by older people and disadvantaged groups in Portugal and the USA, funded by FCT and UTA AustinCD / 0016/2008.


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