Vision Loss Associated with Anxiety and Depression in Older Adults

vision loss anxiety depressionNew findings from the U.S. National Health and Aging Trends Study shows that older adults who suffer from vision loss may have an increased risk of anxiety and depression. It has also been shown that those who show signs of mood disorders have an increased risk of vision impairment.

Dr. Joshua R. Ehrlich from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor spoke about the findings, saying, “Older adults are at high risk for vision problems compared to other segments of the population. Vision impairment, particularly in later life, has many consequences beyond not seeing clearly, including an increased risk of mood disorders.


Dr. Ehrlich’s team used data from more than 75,000 older men and women and found that 31 percent of individuals with impaired vision reported symptoms of depression compared to those without vision problems, which was 13 percent. Those with anxiety symptoms had similar outcomes. Participants in the study who suffered from anxiety showed that 27 percent also reported vision problems compared to 11 percent of those without it.

The results reported in JAMA Ophthalmology concluded that more than 40 percent of participants with impaired vision had either anxiety or depression symptoms compared to 19 percent of those without poor vision.

The difference in the study showed that participants with impaired vision were also 33 percent more likely than those without it to report new symptoms of depression over time, but the same findings did not hold true for symptoms of anxiety.

“Vision loss is associated with many adverse health consequences beyond not seeing clearly. Poor vision not only increases the risk of mood disorders, but also cognitive decline, falls, loss of independence, and even mortality,” said Dr. Ehrlich.

“However, poor vision is not an inevitable part of aging, and an estimated 80 percent of vision loss is preventable or treatable. Accordingly, vision care is a vital component of promoting overall health, well-being, and optimal aging.”

Observed in Clinical Practice

Dr. Marina Ribeiro from Universidade Federal de Alagoas in Maceio, Brazil, who was not involved in the study, noted, “In our clinical practice, we observe exactly this, that advanced age associated with low visual acuity generally leads to mood and anxiety disorders. This is of clinical relevance because it works as a warning to family members who should seek psychological and psychiatric attention for patients with low visual acuity if they observe any change in mood. No one should underestimate the mood swings in patients with low visual acuity,” she added.


Dr. Hilde van der Aa from Amsterdam University Medical Center in The Netherlands, who also was not involved in the study, gave an opinion about the findings. “What is new and most interesting about this study to my opinion is its bidirectional focus on the longitudinal association between visual impairment and mental health.”

“Both metal healthcare professionals and eye care professionals should be aware of the bidirectional association between visual impairment and mental health, to be able to offer tailored support and timely referrals from which patients could directly benefit. “

With more research showing the link between visual impairment, depression, anxiety, and even cognitive decline, physicians are increasingly being called upon to include aspects of mental health screenings into their regular exams. This will hopefully benefit those who suffer from mental disorder and help to prevent any diagnoses before they even begin.