The impact of vision loss appears to extend beyond being able to see the world around you. Scientists have found there is also a direct correlation between vision loss and poor mental health. A study, led by Sightsavers, recently published in the Royal Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene’s International Health found that blind people over the age of 50 were four times more likely to have symptoms of anxiety and depression than those without vision impairment. 

People with severe vision impairment were three times as likely to report mental health concerns as those with moderate vision loss. 

Selben Penzin, senior programme manager—eye health at Sightsavers, noted the research highlights there is a mental burden among people with vision impairment and that vision plays a critical role in overall health. Vision loss can often leave people feeling isolated, making it more difficult to connect socially. 

"It's important for governments and organizations to be aware that people with vision impairments may be more likely to have additional mental health needs and design health services to be sensitive to this. Improving vision through targeted policies and integration of inclusive eye health services into national health and education systems will improve independence, productivity, and well-being,” Selben said. 

"Findings also show the need for further research to understand the knock-on effects of sight loss on mental health, and collaboration between governments and organizations across the world to address the issues."

The study also reviewed how age and gender determined the likely look of developing mental health issues in tandem with vision loss. The results found that self-reported symptoms of anxiety and/or depression are estimated to be more than four times higher among men with severe visual impairment or blindness and more likely as men age, compared to women with the same levels of vision loss. 

The study noted social and cultural norms, differences in gender roles and coping styles had an impact on gender difference finding that men are often more economically active than women and may feel greater impact from visual impairment. 

Click here to read more about the study and the link between vision loss and mental health problems.