More than one in five elderly people are subjected to psychological abuse - mostly by their own children, a Chinese University study has found. Three out of four abusers in the survey turned out to be the victim's children, while of the remainder, 21 per cent were their spouses and 4 per cent their grandchildren. The poll also found that 20 per cent of people admitted they had a tendency to abuse their elderly relatives psychologically, and four out of five of those revealed they had themselves been abused as children - although the study did not specify whether this abuse was physical of psychological. The two-year study of 355 elderly people and 464 of their family members carried out between 2000 and last year was the most comprehensive study of its kind in Hong Kong. Psychology professor Catherine Tang So-kum, who headed the research team, said she was disappointed that social values had changed in Hong Kong and that elderly people had lost their traditional position of respect in the Chinese community. 'Elderly people were a family's treasure in Chinese tradition. However, there have been drastic changes in social values in the whole community, including [among] well-educated people. 'In the past, elderly people played an important role in big families by taking care of young family members. But their role has diminished along with the growing popularity of nuclear families,' the psychology professor explained. She said the situation was comparable to that of overseas in places such as the United States, but warned that the problem would grow worse as Hong Kong's population continued to age. She also admitted that growing pressure among young family members, including financial hardship, also increased the risk of family violence and abuse. The survey showed that 20.8 per cent of elderly people claimed they had been psychologically abused, and 2 per cent said they had been physically abused. Of the 20 per cent of family members who admitted they had a tendency to abuse, 65.3 per cent held degrees and 63.2 per cent earned more than $15,000 a month. Among the same group, 32.6 per cent thought most elderly people liked to meddle in other people's business, 58.9 per cent said the elderly had bad habits, and 47.4 per cent believed most were dependent. The Social Welfare Department replied last night that it was working with different social organisations to tackle the problem of elderly abuse, adding that it had set up three pilot projects to develop preventive and support services for elderly victims.