The Maze of Vision Loss and Depression in Older Adults
The association between vision loss and depression is a complex conundrum, as I wrote in a commentary on the challenges of vision loss and depression in older adults, published May 30th, 2019 in JAMA Ophthalmology. The commentary is a response to a study by Sarah E. Jackson, PhD, University College London and co-authors, published in the same issue, on perceived discrimination, visual impairment and emotional wellbeing in older adults.
I cite research indicating that people with vision loss are two to three times more likely to have depression than the general population. This depression appears to stem from the consequences of vision loss itself, such as the inability to perform everyday tasks, although there is ongoing speculation about the precise mechanisms. The impact of perceived discrimination on people with vision loss has not been well studied.
While continued research is needed to identify the specific factors that can lead to depression in people with vision loss, a focus on patient-specific rehabilitation strategies that address quality of life may enhance wellbeing and reduce depression.
Despite well-documented evidence of an increase in the prevalence of depression among individuals with vision loss, depression screening by eye care practitioners remains uncommon It’s time for a change. Depression, regardless of its cause, has a negative impact on quality of life and functional ability and should always be addressed.
Lighthouse Guild is the leading organization dedicated to addressing and preventing vision loss. For more information, visit Lighthouseguild.org.
Alan R. Morse is President and Chief Executive Officer of Lighthouse Guild, which provides a broad spectrum of services to prevent and address vision loss. His interests include the influence of vision loss on use of healthcare services, functional implications of vision loss and communication issues in patient engagement and care delivery.