Understanding elder abuse in Italy: Perception and prevalence, types and risk factors from a review of the literature

Maria Gabriella Melchiorre, Bridget Penhale, Giovanni Lamura

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The paper aims to perform a review of studies on elder abuse in Italy. Hand searching was undertaken of grey literature and reviews of published papers concerning local, national, and cross-national studies, both in Italian and English languages. Inferences mainly about perception and prevalence, types and risk factors, but also concerning victims and perpetrators when data were available, have been derived through the quantitative and qualitative information collected. On the whole, elder abuse in Italy, with a prevalence rate around 10–14%, is characterized by more female victims, especially in the oldest age groups. The risk of psychological abuse is highest, but the level of financial mistreatment is also high. In domestic settings, difficulties of overburdened family caregivers have been associated with the existence of possible episodes of abuse, which often remain hidden. In institutional settings, neglect of dependent persons, expired medications and lack of hygienic conditions represent the most common forms of reported abuse, uncovered with the help of police inspections. In both settings, the use of physical restraints emerges as an area of concern. Although caution is needed in relation to generalization, the available data suggest the existence of a widespread phenomenon of elder abuse in Italy. But more in-depth research is needed to provide further evidence and to raise the currently relatively low general and professional awareness of elder abuse. Moreover, a dedicated legal framework and protocol for tackling and preventing the phenomenon, and ad hoc support services for the victims, need to be urgently addressed.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)909-931
Number of pages23
JournalEducational Gerontology
Issue number12
Early online date21 May 2014
Publication statusPublished - 2014


  • elder abuse

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