Published Papers - Abstract 128

Schofield MJ & Mishra GD. Three year health outcomes among older women at risk of elder abuse: Women's Health Australia. Quality of Life Research, 2004; 13(6): 1043-1052

Background: Older women are at increasing risk of various forms of familial violence, yet detection is poor and very little is known of the long-term health effects of this psychosocial problem. The effectiveness of the ‘Vulnerability to Abuse’ Screening Scale (VASS) in predicting three year health outcomes was investigated among women enrolled in the Australian Longitudinal Study on Women's Health, now known as Women's Health Australia. Methods: The sample comprised a cohort of 10,421 women aged 73–78 who completed the 1996 and 1999 postal surveys (attrition rate 19.5%). The Time 2 sample had a small bias towards lower risk for elder abuse at Time 1 and better health on SF-36 and self-rated health. The VASS is a 12-item self-report measure with 4 factors: vulnerability, coercion, dependence and dejection. Results: Overall, physical health (PCS) declined while mental health (MCS) increased over the three year period. Decline in physical health was predicted by only the dejection factor, but not by factors which seem to more directly measure abuse. The predictive validity of the VASS for three year mental health outcomes was given partial support. Three of the four VASS factors (dejection, vulnerability, and coercion) predicted decline in mental health at the univariate level, however, after adjusting for confounders, only one VASS factor (dejection) independently predicted decline in mental health. Conclusions: While the VASS shows some promise as a marker of health risk in older women, only the dejection factor proved consistently predictive of declining health status. Further research is needed to determine longer term predictive validity of the scale and to gain a clearer picture of how abusive experiences impact on older women's health.