Researchers found a bidirectional association between self-reported vision impairment and symptoms of depression, but not between vision impairment and anxiety.
Anxiety symptoms may precede vision impairment, they said, but they found no evidence of the reverse.
A sample of 7,584 Medicare beneficiaries at least 65 years old who were part of the National Health and Aging Trends study 2011 to 2016 were included. Participants were considered to have vision impairment if they reported that they were blind, could not see across the street or read newspaper print, even with glasses. They were administered the Patient Health Questionnaire for Depression and Anxiety (PHQ-4), which screens for depression and anxiety symptoms, annually.
Researchers found that the weighted prevalence of depression and anxiety symptoms was more than double among those with self-reported vision impairment (31.2% and 27.2%, respectively) compared to those without (12.9% and 11.1%, respectively).
They said they established a bidirectional association between self-reported vision impairment and depression symptoms, but that anxiety symptoms may only precede vision impairment.
The reasoning for this bidirectional relationship is not clear, the authors stated. It could be that vision impairment causes difficulties in adapting to changes in daily activities, or those who initially have mental health symptoms are less likely to seek eye care. Additionally, perhaps those who have strong risk factors for vision loss or a diagnosis of chronic ocular disease could experience depression or anxiety before the vision impairment surfaces.
In light of these study results, the authors recommended that eye care providers screen older patients with vision loss for mental health issues, and that primary care physicians suggest vision screening in patients with mental health symptoms. – by Nancy Hemphill, ELS, FAAO
Disclosure: Frank reported no relevant financial disclosures. Please see full study for all other authors’ disclosures.