Monash study reveals who, what and where of homicides in people over 65 – revealing home is often unsafe

Monash University

Monash University researchers have produced the first comprehensive study into homicide and older adults revealing that violent death in over 65s is far more likely to occur in their home compared to younger homicide victims.

One in every 12 people who died from homicide globally in 2016 were over 60 years of age, equal to more than 40,000 people. Statistics on homicide in Australians over 65 are not available but in 2019, more than 4,000 crimes were committed against older Victorians in 2019, and 1,423 of these victims were aged 70 or older.

The study, led by PhD student Briohny Kennedy and supervised by Professor Joseph Ibrahim, from the Monash University Health, Law and Ageing Institute, warns that with an aging population, the homicide rate for older adults will only increase.

“Despite an overall decline in homicide rates, the rates for older adults either remain stable or have slightly increased, indicating a failure to achieve substantive improvements in prevention,” Professor Ibrahim said.

According to Ms Kennedy, recognised risk factors for older homicide victims are:

  • Being female

  • The perpetrator is a stranger in almost a quarter of cases of older homicide (compared to 1.8 times in younger victims)

  • In one quarter of cases the perpetrator is a member of the victim’s family

  • The method is most likely with hands or a blunt or personal weapon

  • The risk of being murdered in your own home is four times greater for an older person than a younger one

The study also underlined that:

  • Older adults are at greater risk of abuse if they also suffer from poor mental or physical health or live in poorer socioeconomic circumstances

  • Perpetrators of violence and homicide against older people are frequently family members often with risk factors including alcohol and drug use, mental illness and depression and dependence on the victim

  • Societal factors understood to increase homicide across all age groups include access to firearms and alcohol, residential instability, self-employment, income inequality

According to Professor Ibrahim: “Recent responses to family violence have been ground breaking and create an opportunity to address older adult homicide, as our understanding of the phenomenon increases.”

“there should be greater understanding of the risk factors for older people and homicide and that intervention programs for care givers and families should be implemented to prevent these deaths,” Ms Kennedy said.

Read the full paper in Trauma, Violence, & Abuse titled: Epidemiology of Homicide in Community-Dwelling Older Adults: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis.

DOI: 10.1177/15248380211030250

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