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Elder Abuse in New Zealand – the statistics

Elder abuse is a global problem. It is difficult to know exactly how common elder abuse is, as most goes unreported.  An analysis of data from the New Zealand Longitudinal Study of Ageing concluded that 10% of the population aged over 65 years who are living in the community experience abuse. International studies report that 3% – 10% of older people experience abuse or neglect each year.  It happens to men and women of every religious, cultural, ethnic and socio-economic group.

However, much abuse goes unreported.  It has been estimated that only 1 in 14 of all abuse incidents come to the attention of a service agency that can intervene to help stop the abuse.

The abuse

Most cases involve more than one form of abuse

79% involve psychological abuse – Psychological abuse includes threats, humiliation or harassment. This creates distress, shame, or stress, which often leads to a sense of powerlessness in the older person. It is often a factor in other forms of abuse.

54% involve financial abuse – Financial abuse ranges from illegal use of your money (or assets) to coercion (such as being pressured to change a will or sign documents).

19% involve physical abuse – Physical abuse includes any personal harm or injury.

17% involve neglect

1% involve sexual abuse – Sexual abuse includes any non-consensual sexual activity.

Who commits elder abuse?

The abuser is often someone close to their victim. It is someone trusted: family members, friends and even neighbours. Abusers are often someone they depend on for support or care.

42% of abusers live with their victim

46% of abusers are female

54% of abusers are male

76% of abusers are family members

16% of abusers are a partner

44% of abusers are a son, daughter, or their partner

20% of abusers are a friend or neighbour


The message is clear – elder abuse is not OK. If you see abuse, speak out against it.

If you are in this situation or know someone who is, you can ring the confidential 24 hour, free helpline. Call 0800 32 668 65. Registered nurses will listen and advise anyone who needs information or support. If needed, callers will be referred to local Elder Abuse Response Service to get help.

If there is immediate danger call 111 for the police or ambulance.

About Eve Williams

Eve Williams is the Content Developer and Social Media Administration for Eldernet. She is currently studying towards her Masters at the University of Canterbury. She has a passion for learning new things.