Health In Focus
  • Cataract increases risk of depression in older adults, finds a study.
  • The risk of depression was higher among older women and those with no formal education.
Older adults with cataracts are likely to suffer from depression, reports a new study. The study conducted by researcher Haifang Wang, MSc, of Soochow University, Suzhou, China, and colleagues found that depressive symptoms were more among older adults with lower education.

Depression in Older Adults with Cataracts

Globally, cataracts are the leading cause of visual impairment in the older adults. Depression is very common in elderly. Most of the older adults with depression do not recognize the symptoms, or they do not seek professional help.
Cataract Increases Depression Risk in Older Adults

The current study investigated the links between visual impairment and depression. The study conducted among Chinese older adults provided evidence for an association between cataracts and depression.

The study involved 4,600 older adults 60 years or older. The participants had completed a depression questionnaire and underwent a clinical eye examination to rate the presence and severity of cataracts. Participants who had undergone cataract surgery were excluded from the study. About 49% of the older adults had cataracts in at least one eye.

About 8 percent of the participants had depressive symptoms. Depression was more common in women (11%) than men (5%). The study found that 33 percent of older adults with cataracts were more likely to have depressive symptoms. The odds of depression were similar in participants with cataracts in one eye and both eyes.

The risk of depression is increased by 50 percent among older adults with no formal education.

After adjusting factors such as socioeconomic status, lifestyle factors, visual acuity and education, the researchers found that cataract increased depression risk by 14 percent. Older adults with visual impairment are likely to become isolated and withdrawn. Depression may make older adults less likely to seek treatment for cataracts. The researchers noted that their study did not show the direction of the association between cataract and depression.

Michael Twa, OD, Ph.D., FAAO, Editor-in-Chief of Optometry and Vision Science, commented, "These results suggest that optometrists and vision care professionals should think beyond the direct effects of cataracts on visual impairment. We should also consider the broader impact that vision loss may have on mental health and well-being."

"As a next step, it would be important to know if the associated depression in older adults is reversible following the restoration of vision after cataract surgery."

"Our study sheds further light on the complex relationship between aging, vision loss, cataract, and depression and suggests that there may be a role for cataract surgery in improving mental health in the elderly," wrote the researchers.

The study is published in Optometry and Vision Science, the official journal of the American Academy of Optometry.


The clouding of the lens of the eye is termed as cataract. This eye condition is more common among the elderly, causing visual impairment.

  • Globally, about 51% of the blindness is due to cataract
  • Cataract is the leading cause of blindness in both developed and developing countries.
  • Smoking, exposure to UV rays, diabetes and higher body mass index are risk factors for cataract.
  • Cataract surgery is effective and successful in restoring vision.
  • About 10 million cataract operations are performed each year worldwide.
Source: Medindia

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