A nursing home resident who gets eyeglasses for uncorrected refractive error is less likely to suffer from depression than one with refractive error who did not receive eyeglasses, according to an article in Archives of Ophthalmology (JAMA/Archives), November edition.

Refractive error results in blurred vision – the back of the eye does not get the right amount of light.

The authors explain “Nursing home residents in the United States and other industrialized countries have high rates of vision impairment, with estimates ranging from three to 15 times higher than corresponding rates for community-dwelling older adults. Studies suggest that vision impairment in about one-third of nursing home residents could largely be reversed by treatment of uncorrected refractive error (myopia [nearsightedness], hyperopia [farsightedness], presbyopia [loss of focus]).”

Cynthia Owsley, Ph.D., M.S.P.H., University of Alabama at Birmingham, and team carried out a trial involving 142 nursing home residents, aged 55 or more. 78 residents were randomly assigned to a group that would get eyeglasses one week after check-up, while 64 received eyeglasses two months after check up (at follow-up). At two months vision-related quality of life and depressive symptoms were measured at baseline.

At baseline the two groups had similar demographic and medical characteristics – they also had similar visual acuteness and refractive error uncorrected by eyeglasses. Two months later, distance and near visual acuity for both left and right eyes improved in the group that had been given eyeglasses, while the other group had no improvement in visual acuity.

During the two-month follow-up, the eyeglass group had better scores for general vision, reading, activities/hobbies and social interaction – they also displayed fewer depressive symptoms.

The researchers concluded “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. 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 service delivery and eye care utilization.”

“Effect of Refractive Error Correction on Health-Related Quality of Life and Depression in Older Nursing Home Residents”
Cynthia Owsley, PhD, MSPH; Gerald McGwin Jr, MS, PhD; Kay Scilley, PhD; G. Christine Meek, BS; Deidre Seker, MS; Allison Dyer, BS
Arch Ophthalmol. 2007;125(11):1471-1477.
Click here to view abstract online

Written by – Christian Nordqvist