The impact of psychological abuse on somatic symptoms: A study of older persons aged 60-84 years

Joaquim Jorge Fernandes Soares, Eija Viitasara, Gloria Macassa, Maria Gabriella Melchiorre, Mindaugas Stankunas, Jutta Lindert, Henrique Barros, Elisabeth Ioannidi-Kapolou, Francisco Torres-González

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Purpose: The purpose of this paper is to examine differences in the experience of somatic symptoms by domain (exhaustion, musculoskeletal, gastrointestinal, heart distress) between psychologically abused and non-abused older persons, and to scrutinize associations between abuse and somatic symptoms while considering other factors (e.g. social support). Design/methodology/approach - The design was cross-sectional. The participants were 4,467 women/men aged 60-84 years living in seven European cities. The data were analysed using bivariate/multivariate methods. Findings: Psychologically abused participants scored higher on all somatic symptom domains than non-abused, and thus were more affected by the symptoms. The regressions confirmed a positive association between psychological abuse and most somatic symptom domains, but other factors (e.g. depression, anxiety) were more salient. Demographics/socio-economics were positively (e.g. marriage/ cohabitation) or negatively (e.g. education) associated with somatic symptoms depending on the domain. Social support and family structure "protected" the experience of somatic symptoms. Research limitations/implications: The research focused on psychological abuse. It did not incorporate other abuse types calling for further research on the effects of other abuse types on somatic symptoms. Nevertheless, the findings indicate that psychological abuse is linked to somatic symptoms, but the role of other factors (e.g. depression, anxiety, social support) is also important. Practical implications: Improvements in the older person's situation regarding somatic symptoms need to consider psychological abuse, co-morbidities, social support and living conditions. Originality/value - The paper reports data from the ABUEL Survey, which collected population-based data on elder abuse.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)213-231
Number of pages19
JournalJournal of Adult Protection
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Aug 5 2014


  • Europe
  • Mental health
  • Older persons
  • Psychological abuse
  • Social support
  • Somatic symptoms

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Law
  • Sociology and Political Science

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    Soares, J. J. F., Viitasara, E., Macassa, G., Melchiorre, M. G., Stankunas, M., Lindert, J., Barros, H., Ioannidi-Kapolou, E., & Torres-González, F. (2014). The impact of psychological abuse on somatic symptoms: A study of older persons aged 60-84 years. Journal of Adult Protection, 16(4), 213-231.