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Depression Linked to Vision Loss

More than 10 percent of U.S. adults who report vision loss have clinical symptoms of major depression, according to a large study.

In the study of 10,500 participants, the prevalence of depression was 11.3 percent among those with vision loss compared with 4.8 percent for those with no visual problems.

In fact, adults with vision loss were 90 percent more likely to be depressed than those with intact vision, the researchers reported in JAMA Ophthalmology.

Although vision loss and depression are common among the elderly, the psychological effects of vision loss across the entire spectrum of adulthood have not been examined very closely.

For the study, researcher Xinzhi Zhang, M.D., Ph.D., of the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Md., and colleagues used information from the 2005-2008 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey.  The survey includes data of participants ages 20 and older regarding their demographics, family history, and medical history.

Mean age was 47, slightly over half were female, and 70 percent were white. Almost 25 percent were smokers, and conditions such as hypertension and diabetes were common.

The study participants reported any activity limitations relating to vision difficulties, such as reading the newspaper, driving during the day, and having problems with poorly lit stairs. Vision was measured using standard vision charts while participants wore their usual glasses or contact lenses.

Depression was more common in those with vision loss compared to those with no vision loss:

  • 20 to 39 years, 13 percent versus 4.7 percent;
  • 40 to 59 years, 11.5 percent versus 6 percent;
  • 60 years and up, 9.6 percent versus 3 percent.

In the specific tasks, such as reading newsprint and daytime driving, the prevalence of depression was more common among those with vision loss.  As the number of tasks with difficulty increased, the rate and severity of depressive symptoms also rose.

“Likely, the association between vision loss and depression could be related to other factors in addition to reduced visual acuity, particularly the disability that vision loss causes in a person’s life,” the researchers said.

The relationship between vision loss and depression is likely to be “bidirectional,” with the disability worsening depression and depression exacerbating disability, they noted.

Furthermore, patients who are depressed may fail to seek care when their vision becomes impaired and may not follow the treatment recommendations.

“Our findings suggest that eye care professionals should consider patients’ psychological conditions and provide referrals to those exhibiting depressive symptoms,” said the researchers.

“Improved access to screening, diagnosis, and treatment of depression by eye care professionals and primary care providers may help to reduce the burden of depression-related excess disability and improve the quality of life among people with vision loss,” they concluded.

Source:  JAMA Opthalmology


Depression Linked to Vision Loss

Traci Pedersen

Traci Pedersen is a professional writer with over a decade of experience. Her work consists of writing for both print and online publishers in a variety of genres including science chapter books, college and career articles, and elementary school curriculum.

APA Reference
Pedersen, T. (2018). Depression Linked to Vision Loss. Psych Central. Retrieved on December 1, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 Aug 2018 (Originally: 9 Mar 2013)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Aug 2018
Published on Psych All rights reserved.