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The Maze of Vision Loss and Depression in Older Adults

Lighthouse Guild CEO addresses issue in JAMA ophthalmology commentary and calls for increased depression screening for people with vision loss.

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(PRESS RELEASE) NEW YORK – “The association between vision loss and depression is a complex conundrum,” says Alan R. Morse, JD, PhD, president and CEO of Lighthouse Guild, in a commentary on the challenges of vision loss and depression in older adults, published 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.

Dr. Morse cites 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 drive 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.

Dr. Morse says that 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,” says Dr. Morse. He adds, “Depression, regardless of its cause, has a negative impact on quality of life and functional ability and should always be addressed.”

For a copy of Dr. Morse’s commentary, email JAMA Ophthalmology at mediarelations@jamanetwork.org.

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