Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to identify, describe and compare the studies of the prevalence of abuse and neglect of older adults developed in Portugal. Design/methodology/approach – A retrospective bibliographic search of seven descriptors in English and Portuguese, of academic and professional papers and university institutional repositories was performed. Findings – Of the nine studies selected, seven consisted of grey literature – research developed within the course of academic post-graduate studies. The studies were conducted on a small scale, more often than not, through a non-probabilistic convenience sampling method. From the nine studies, two instruments prevailed: the Questions to Elicit Elder Abuse aimed at older adults and the Caregiver Abuse Screen aimed at caregivers. Community-dwelling older adults self-reported a higher prevalence of abuse (between 66.7 and 86.7 per cent) than care professionals working with older adults suffering from dementia (between 26.7 and 47.4 per cent). Emotional abuse and neglect were the first and second most prevalent forms of abuse, followed by financial abuse, whereas physical abuse was the least prevalent type of abuse encountered. A poorer perception of health, not making/receiving visits and residing in an urban area were the more consistent variables associated with abuse of older adults. Originality/value – Overall, this paper provides a first consideration to the prevalence rates of older adult abuse and neglect from research studies in Portugal. The revised design studies and screening methods employed can help researchers improve future study design and move from the description to a more theoretically oriented research. Furthermore, it can help practitioners learn screening methods and discover the findings associated with abuse.