As we age, it is normal to expect that we will gradually lose some of our vision. However, some individuals experience rapid vision loss. A study led by Dr. Alberto Diniz-Filho, a researcher at the University of California in San Diego, found that the speed at which patients lose their sight is closely related to their risk of developing depression.
The study examined 102 patients with glaucomatous field defects for several years. The progression of each patient’s glaucoma was tracked by visual field tests and their symptoms of depression through the Geriatric Depression Scale (GDS) using questionnaires.
The GDS gives a person a score of 0 to 15. A score from 0 to 4 is considered normal, a score of 5 to 9 is considered mildly depressed and a score of 10 to 15 indicates severe depression. According to the Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB), it is incredibly important to understand how to help people with sight loss. Amanda Hawkins, emotional support services senior manager added, “Every individual’s experience of sight loss is different, but RNIB believes that with the right support, people who have lost their sight can live independent and fulfilling lives.”
It is not difficult to imagine why vision loss is related to depression. Poor vision makes it difficult to do the activities you enjoy like reading, cooking, driving, and even socializing. When you cannot see people’s faces, it’s hard to engage and interact with them. Studies show that 25 percent of individuals who develop age-related macular degeneration (the leading cause of blindness in individuals over the age of 60 in the U.S.), develop clinical depression (Source: NPR).
Hawkins added, “That’s why it’s so important that people in this situation are offered the emotional and practical support they need, initially through sight loss advisers in eye departments, leading on to more specialized counseling services such as the one at RNIB if needed. People shouldn’t be left alone when they are most vulnerable” (Source: Optometry Today).