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Search Health Information    Fixing Vision May Ease Depression
 Mental Health Center Feature Story

Fixing Vision May Ease Depression
Older people report improved quality of life with new glasses

Fixing Vision May Ease Depression(HealthDay News) -- Poor vision may have more of an effect on older people than making it hard for them to see. It also might actually spark depression.

In a study of nursing home residents, researchers found that when vision was corrected with eyeglasses, their quality of life improved and symptoms of depression abated.

"This study implies that there are significant, short-term, quality-of-life and psychological benefits to providing the most basic of eye care services -- namely, spectacle correction -- to older adults residing in nursing homes," the researchers wrote. Their findings were reported in the Archives of Ophthalmology .

Depression shouldn't be considered a normal part of aging, according to the National Institute of Mental Health. However, certain medical conditions, such as heart disease or cancer, that are more common in older people can often trigger depression.

Symptoms of depression, according to the institute, include:

  • A persistent feeling of sadness
  • Feeling anxious, guilty or pessimistic
  • Feeling hopeless, worthless or "empty"
  • No longer enjoying activities once found pleasurable
  • Restlessness
  • Irritability
  • Changes in sleep patterns (either difficulty sleeping or excessive sleeping)
  • Lethargy
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Changes in appetite
  • Suicidal thoughts

Often, these symptoms aren't as obvious in older people, the institute reports.

For the study, depressive symptoms, as well as vision-related quality-of-life symptoms, were measured in 142 nursing home residents, all older than 55. One week after having an eye exam, 78 of the participants were given eyeglasses; the remaining 64 received eyeglasses two months later. The groups were established to be equally balanced as far as vision and refractive errors as well as demographic and medical characteristics.

After two months, those who had received eyeglasses recorded the expected improvement in vision, but they also showed improvement in social interaction, participating in activities and hobbies, and had fewer depressive symptoms.

"These findings underscore the need for a systematic evaluation of the factors underlying the pervasive unavailability of eye care to nursing home residents in the United States so that steps can be taken to improve delivery and eye care utilization" and possibly reduce the incidence of depression, the researchers concluded.

The American Academy of Ophthalmology recommends that everyone have a baseline eye exam at about age 40. Based on the results of the exam, an ophthalmologist will determine how often people should return for follow-up exams. Recommendations for screening intervals depend on personal risk factors.

For those 65 and older, though, the academy recommends an eye exam every one to two years to check for serious eye diseases, such as glaucoma, cataracts, macular degeneration and diabetic retinopathy.

On the Web

To learn more about signs of vision problems, visit Prevent Blindness America

SOURCES: HealthDay News ; November 2007, Archives of Ophthalmology ; Foundation of the American Academy of Ophthalmology (; National Institute of Mental Health (
Author: Serena Gordon
Publication Date: Nov. 30, 2008
Copyright © 2008 ScoutNews, LLC. All rights reserved.


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