A prospective population-based study of differences in elder self-neglect and mortality between black and white older adults

Xin Qi Dong, Melissa A. Simon, Terry Fulmer, Carlos F.Mendes De Leon, Liesi E. Hebert, Todd Beck, Paul A. Scherr, Denis A. Evans

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

34 Scopus citations


Background: Self-neglect is the behavior of an elderly person that threatens his or her own health and safety, and it is associated with increased morbidity and mortality. Although report of self-neglect is more common among black older adults, the racial/ethnic differences in mortality remain unclear. Methods: The Chicago Healthy Aging Project is a population-based cohort study conducted from 1993 to 2005. A subset of these participants were suspected to self-neglect and were reported to a social services agency. Mortality was ascertained during follow-up and from the National Death Index. Cox proportional hazards models were used to assess the mortality risk. Results: In the total cohort, there were 5,963 black and 3,475 white older adults, and of these, 1,479 were reported for self-neglect (21.7% in black and 5.3% in white older adults). In multivariable analyses with extensive adjustments, the interaction term indicated that impact of self-neglect on mortality was significantly stronger in black than in white older adults (parameter estimate, 0.54, SE, 0.14, p < .001). This difference persisted over time. In race/ethnicity-stratified analyses, at 6 months after report of self-neglect, the hazard ratio for black older adults was 5.00 (95% confidence interval, 4.47-5.59) and for white older adults was 2.75 (95% confidence interval, 2.19-3.44). At 3 years after report, the hazard ratios were 2.61 (95% confidence interval, 2.25-3.04) and 1.47 (95% confidence interval, 1.10-1.96) for black older adults and white older adults, respectively. Conclusions: Future studies are needed to qualify the casual mechanisms between self-neglect and mortality in black and white older adults in order to devise targeted prevention and intervention strategies.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)695-704
Number of pages10
JournalJournals of Gerontology - Series A Biological Sciences and Medical Sciences
Volume66 A
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2011
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Medicine


  • Health disparity
  • Mortality
  • Population-based study
  • Race/ethnicity
  • Self-neglect


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