Abstract: Suicidal Ideation after Spouse Abuse Among Older Adults-Risk and Protective Factors (Society for Social Work and Research 24th Annual Conference - Reducing Racial and Economic Inequality)

420P Suicidal Ideation after Spouse Abuse Among Older Adults-Risk and Protective Factors

Saturday, January 18, 2020
Marquis BR Salon 6 (ML 2) (Marriott Marquis Washington DC)
* noted as presenting author
Sukyung Yoon, MSW, PhD Student, The University of Tennessee, Knoxville, Knoxville, TN

Intimate Partner Violence (IPV) is a severe public health concern globally (WHO, 2013). IPV among older adults is anticipated to heighten as baby boomers age (Roberto, McPherson, & Brossoie, 2013). Victims of IPV suffer long term negative mental issues such as depression and suicidal ideation (Carbone-López, Kruttschnitt, & Macmillan, 2006). Social support may offer vital protection against these vulnerabilities (Ai, Pappas, & Simonsen, 2015). Problem-focused coping may help older adults take appropriate action, whereas emotion-focused coping may hinder them from developing suitable relationships (Piazza et al., 2014) under stressful situations. However, more research is needed on these issues among older adults. This study investigates 1) the impact of IPV on SI and 2) the impact of risk and protective factors on SI among older adults.


Data were drawn from the 2004 graduate wave of the Wisconsin Longitudinal Study and included community-dwelling older adults ages 62-63 who completed both mail questionnaires and phone-interviews (N=6,125).  Logistic regression was employed to investigate the impact of IPV on SI among the population and examine the impact on SI of risk factors– depression, emotion-focused coping-- and protective factors-- social support and problem-focused coping. The dependent variable SI was assessed by asking, “Have you ever seriously thought about taking your own life?” Experience of physical abuse from spouse/romantic partner was assessed by asking, “Has your spouse or romantic partner ever treated you in a way that some would think of as physical abuse?” Depressive symptoms were measured based on the CES-D (Radloff, 1977) with total scores ranging from 0 to 140. The mean of the squared root was used due to high skewness and kurtosis. Social support was assessed by four questions developed by WLS with higher scores indicating higher levels of social support. Coping skills were assessed by questions based on the Brief Cope (Carver, 1997). Problem-focused coping was assessed by eight items and emotion-focused coping by ten items. The control variables were sex, health status and education. All binary variables were converted into dummy variables before analysis.


A logistic regression was conducted. The results were statistically significant, X2 = 247.110 (df=8), p< 0.001. The percentage correct classification was 95%. The prevalence of spousal physical abuse was 7.2%. Older adults who experienced physical abuse from intimate partners had 3 times higher SI than their counterparts (OR=3.543, p < = .001, Wald = 67.485). Depressive symptoms (OR= 3.633, p < = .001, Wald = 60.820) and emotional focused coping (OR= 1.077, p < = .001, Wald = 23.375) were significant risk factors for SI, whereas problem-focused coping and social support had no significant impact on SI in this sample.  


Experience of physical abuse within intimate relationships had serious impact on SI among the sample. Depressive symptoms and emotion-focused coping were serious risk factors. Practitioners should screen for experience of violence, depressive symptoms and SI, intervene to reduce depressive symptoms and emotion-focused coping, and teach older adults appropriate coping strategies.