Domestic violence in elderly women: A systematic review

Melissa M Batt, The University of Texas School of Public Health


Over one in ten women over the age of 50 in the United States suffers from physical, sexual or verbal abuse perpetrated by a significant other. As of 2010, 55.2 percent of the U.S. population over age 65 live with their spouse, and women comprise a larger proportion of the population over the age of 65. Abuse of elderly women by their spouses is increasing among the growing ”over 60” demographic in the United States. Women suffer a higher percentage of physical, emotional, and financial abuse than men do. Abuse contributes to the premature morbidity and mortality of women over age 60. It is clearly a public health problem. A systematic review of the literature has been conducted to develop a profile of women age 60 and over who are experiencing or at risk for domestic violence perpetrated by their significant other. Literature was obtained using searches of MEDLINE, PubMed, PsycInfo, Sociological Abstracts, CSA social services abstracts, Cumulative Index of Nursing Research (CINAHL), Health and Psychosocial Instruments and Cochrane Library from 1990 to the present. Searches were done using terms such as "domestic violence," "intimate partner violence," "battered women," "spouse abuse," and "partner abuse" in a similar manner to existing systematic reviews. A profile of a woman over age 60, as summarized from the literature, includes having chronic medical and psychiatric illnesses, having few social supports, and coming from a family of origin where violence was present. The majority of women sustain only minor injuries as a result of physical abuse, but if sexual abuse is present it is more likely to have been ongoing throughout the relationship. There are many barriers to leaving the abusive relationship, and usually women only leave with community support. The reported risk factors for domestic violence of women over age 60 include living with the perpetrator, being cognitively impaired, feeling depressed or stressed, younger age, fewer years of education, lower household salary, non-Caucasian ethnicity, having few social supports, alcohol or drug abuse by the perpetrator or victim, and feeling as though dependent on her significant other. These risk factors lend themselves to questions that could be adapted for a risk assessment scale in future studies. The strength of this review is that it is focused solely on women over age 60 and garnered specific information to assist in the identification of abuse among this segment of the population.

Subject Area

Gerontology|Womens studies

Recommended Citation

Batt, Melissa M, "Domestic violence in elderly women: A systematic review" (2010). Texas Medical Center Dissertations (via ProQuest). AAI1484206.