Surprising researchers, study finds that more socially engaged adults could be at higher risk for abuse – Home Care Daily News

Offering an unexpected conclusion, a new study found that more socially engaged adults, especially women, were more likely to be emotionally abused than those who were less socially engaged.

The study, conducted by UC San Francisco, analyzed responses from 2,241 older adults with a mean age of about 75. Researchers found those who were broadly engaged in social activities before the COVID-19 pandemic had a 76% higher risk of experiencing emotional abuse or mistreatment. The results surprised the research team.

“We expected that older adults who regularly take part in community-based social activities would report lower rates of abuse or mistreatment than older adults who were more socially withdrawn,” senior author Alison J. Huang, M.D., said. “But we found that the opposite was the case for older women.”

In the study, researchers analyzed data from the 2015-2016 National Social Health and Aging project. They examined older adults’ patterns of social engagement, including volunteer work, attending religious services and socializing with family and friends. The paper was published June 9 in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.

Researchers learned that 40% of women and 22% of men reported at least one form of mistreatment. Ashwin A. Kotwal, M.D., a UCSF geriatrician researcher, said people more socially engaged might have more opportunities and contact points for mistreatment.

“But, another possibility is that older women who are already experiencing abuse may try to get more involved in the community to seek support in coping with abuse,” Kotwal said.

The research team concluded that while social engagement can connect people with valuable community support, clinicians and geriatricians still need to be on the lookout for unintended consequences. 

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