Societal and cultural issues may contribute to elder abuse in both developed and developing nations. While elder abuse is a global problem, the incidence of elder abuse is underestimated and under reported in most countries. Elder abuse can also be the cause of societal issues, as inhabitants fear getting older and elderly citizens are less capable of providing for society because of the abuse.

Societal and Cultural Issues and Abuse

Perceptions of elderly patients may differ according to societal or cultural customs, and these perceptions may be contributing factors to elder abuse. In many societies, the perception of elderly women that live alone is poor. Woman may be accused of doing witchcraft, or may be forced to marry. Women may be abused for perceived shortcomings or wrongdoings that led to living alone.

Societal Elder Abuse Causes

In some societies, elders of either gender may be perceived as a burden on the society’s resources. This perception may lead to abuse of different types, particularly financial, as the abuser justifies the abuse as compensation for this burden. Elders may also be viewed unfavorably in some societies due to worsening physical health or debilitating conditions.

Societal Elder Abuse Effects

Elder abuse is detrimental to the society in which it takes place, as citizens become apprehensive about growing older. This apprehension may increase the inherent stress within the society leading to dissent as citizens observe the issue as a lack of concern within the governing body. The culture is also negatively affected as the elderly citizens that are being abused cannot contribute as much to society and have much shorter life spans.

Family Societal and Cultural Issues

Since most cases of elder abuse occur in private homes and are perpetrated by family members, the familial structure that is considered normal in the society can contribute to elder abuse. In societies where it is considered normal to have generations living separately, bringing an elder relative into a household may be viewed as a burden and increase stress levels. In societies where it is considered normal to have all family members living together, the elder family member may be viewed as another contributor to the family.

Family Power Structure

Societal and cultural norms may also dictate the accepted power structure within families. In societies in which elders relatives are looked upon as wizened, the power structure may inherently prevent elder abuse. In societies in which elders are viewed as burdensome or unproductive, elder abuse may become a symptom of this structure.

Government Society and Cultural Issues

In recent years, elder abuse has become an issue that attracts more attention worldwide. In many countries, including the United States, legislature has been put in place in an attempt to prevent elder abuse. Implementing legislature can help to alter some of the cultural views surrounding the elderly population and abuse. While the incidence of elder abuse has increased in the United States, the sharp increase in elderly population may be amplifying the volume of incidents.

Retirement Programs Effect

In many societies, it is understood that the government has created a structure in which citizens will be taken care of financially after gainful employment is no longer possible. If this system is viewed as successful and reasonable, citizens will be less apt to be concerned with growing older. Elderly citizens will be less likely to be viewed as burdensome, and the incidence of elder abuse will decrease.

Population Effect

Fluctuating population between generations may have a dramatic effect on the society’s ability to care for elderly citizens. In the United States, the population of the generation that is currently entering retirement age is disproportionate to the generation that is currently working. This can denigrate the view of elderly citizens as resources become scarcer, which can contribute to neglect and abuse of elderly citizens. General population increases within a society may have similar derogatory effects on vulnerable citizens.




Horl, Josef. “National Report on Elder Abuse in Austria.”World Health Organization. World Health Organization. Web. 27 Feb 2014. <>.

Leroux, TG, and M Petrunik. “The Construction of Elder Abuse as a Social Problem: A Canadian Perspective.” PubMed. 20.4 (1990): 651-663. Web. 27 Feb. 2014. <>.