Cataracts linked to Increasing Incidence of Depression in Older Adults: Chinese Researchers

Going beyond diabetes, scientists found that older adults with cataracts too are more likely to have symptoms of depression, ruling out the belief that they are independent of each other.  They attributed the link to vision loss that might cause older adults to become isolated and withdrawn, or even refusing to seek treatment for cataracts.

According to new research by a team with lead author Haifang Wang of Soochow University, Suzhou, China, “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.”

Age-related cataracts are indicators of the shift towards advancing age and depression is also common in older adults. This study for the first time provides evidence for an association between cataracts and depression.

The study based on a survey of about 4,600 older adults, aged 60 years or older, in one Chinese town studied those who had undergone a clinical eye examination to rate the presence and severity of cataracts, causing vision loss.

Excluding those with previous cataract surgery, 49% of older adults in the study had cataracts in at least one eye and their depression evaluation showed that 8% had depressive symptoms. Symptoms of depression were more common in women than men, 11% versus 5%, and more common among the older age groups.

Their analysis of the survey outcome showed that symptoms of depression were 33% more likely when cataracts were present. And the odds of depressive symptoms were similar for subjects with cataracts in one eye versus both eyes.

Among those with no formal education, the association between cataracts and depression was even stronger at 50% increase. Finally, cataracts explained 14% of the variation in depression risk, said researchers.

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

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