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Singapore Med J. 2008 Oct;49(10):765-73.

Epidemiology of suspected elderly mistreatment in Singapore.

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  • 1Emergency Department, Tan Tock Seng Hospital, 11 Jalan Tan Tock Seng, Singapore 308433. dong_haur_phua@ttsh.com.sg



In our Asian society, respect for our elderly is deeply entrenched and highly valued. However, a previous study had shown that physical mistreatment of the elderly exists in the local population. This present descriptive study aims to evaluate the other types of elderly mistreatment and epidemiology of suspected victims in the local population.


Over a period of 12 months, from June 2005 to May 2006, doctors of the Emergency Department (ED) were trained to look for clinical features of mistreatment in patients aged 65 years and above. A specially-developed evaluation form was used to help the staff in assessing suspected cases; these were then referred to medical social workers for further evaluation.


42 cases of suspected mistreatment were detected, with almost three times more female than male patients. The average age of suspected victims was 78.8 years. There were 27 cases of possible physical mistreatment, 25 of possible neglect, six of possible psychological mistreatment, two of possible financial mistreatment, one of possible abandonment and one of possible self-neglect. Most suspected perpetrators were family members, and more than half were the victims' sons. 37 suspected victims had to be warded after ED consultation and eight died within six months of presentation.


Mistreatment of the elderly in the local population is more prevalent than expected and victims can suffer adverse outcomes. Understanding of this problem is still incomplete and more research is required. Increased awareness of this problem in the community and the medical fraternity can better identify such patients.

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