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July 23, 1982

Violence in Geriatric Patients

Author Affiliations

Cornell University Medical College New York

JAMA. 1982;248(4):471. doi:10.1001/jama.1982.03330040059034

As physicians concerned with the preservation of life, the problem of violence is well within our sphere in terms of its study, treatment, and, hopefully, prevention. In studying the characteristics of violent psychiatric patients and criminals in general, young persons have received the most attention as perpetrators of violence, while old persons have been seen as vulnerable victims of violence.

The article by Petrie and colleagues in this issue of The Journal (p 443) focuses our attention on the old, namely, patients admitted to a geriatric unit of a state hospital. Approximately 8% of these patients committed serious violent acts with a weapon, usually a gun, and another 63% were physically assaultive without a weapon or verbally abusive toward other persons. For those geriatric patients using a weapon, it usually was their first violent episode and first experience with psychiatric treatment. This certainly differs from the picture of the young