High Correlation Between Visual Impairment and Depression

The impact of vision loss on mental health is often overlooked or underestimated, according to researchers..

Approximately 1 in 4 patients who regularly visit eye clinics and low-vision rehabilitation services experience depression, according to findings published in JAMA Ophthalmology.

Researchers conducted a meta-analysis to investigate the prevalence of depression in patients with visual impairment who visit eye clinics and low-vision rehabilitation services on a regular basis. The study’s analysis consisted of searching the MEDLINE and Embase databases and included patients 18 years and older. The study excluded patients with inherited or congenital eye diseases.

Of 27 studies in the meta-analysis, 25 included patients older than 65 years. The total number of patients included was 6992, with a mean age of 76 years. The median proportion of depression was 0.3 (range, 0.03-0.54), with cognitive impairment being the only patient characteristic which influenced the prevalence of depression (P =.008). In both clinic-based studies (0.34; 95%CI, 0.23-0.47) and in rehabilitation services (0.25; 95%CI, 0.18-0.33), the prevalence of depression was high.

The study explains that, in primary care offices and eye clinics, these rates of depression are often overlooked or underestimated.

“Although the high prevalence of depression among patients with visual impairment is more likely to be recognized by low vision rehabilitation specialists, these patients are commonly not assessed with appropriate diagnostic procedures nor referred for adequate treatment,” the researchers say.

The researchers also urge that all primary and specialized eye care professionals have an appropriate knowledge of this correlation, as well as the competence necessary to decide when and how to investigate the presence of depression in patients with the intention to make clinical referrals.

“Treatment and follow-up visits of integrated care, which coordinates ophthalmologists and psychiatric or psychological referrals, may maximize efficiency and lead to effective patient-centered care,” the study explains.

Study limitations included differing definitions of visual impairment and cutoffs used for depression diagnosis among the studies included in the analysis. Additionally, the researchers note that this review did not aim to explore the relationship between visual impairment and depression.


Parravano M, Petri D, Maurutto E, et al. Association between visual impairment and depression in patients attending eye clinics: a meta-analysis. JAMA Ophthalmol. Published online May 27, 2021. doi:10.1001/jamaophthalmol.2021.1557