Cataracts Linked to Increased Odds of Depression in Older Adults

ALPHEN AAN DEN RIJN, the Netherlands -- December 2, 2016 -- Older adults with cataracts are more likely to have symptoms of depression, according to a study published in the December issue of Optometry and Vision Science.

The link between cataracts and depression is independent of other factors, and appears strongest among older adults with lower education, according to Haifang Wang, MD, Soochow University, Suzhou, China, and colleagues.

“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,” the authors wrote.

Age-related cataracts are the leading cause of visual impairment worldwide and are expected to increase as population demographics shift towards advancing age. This large study in Chinese older adults investigated the link between visual impairment and depressive symptoms and provides evidence for an association between cataracts and depression.

As part of a community survey study, approximately 4,600 older adults aged 60 years or older in a Chinese town completed a depression questionnaire. Participants also underwent a clinical eye examination to rate the presence and severity of cataracts.

Excluding those with previous cataract surgery, nearly half (49%) of older adults in the study had cataracts in at least 1 eye. On the depression questionnaire, 8% of subjects had depressive symptoms. Symptoms of depression were more common in women than men (11% vs 5%), and more common in older age groups.

Older adults with cataracts were more likely to have depressive symptoms, independent of socioeconomic status, lifestyle factors, and visual acuity. On adjusted analysis, symptoms of depression were 33% more likely when cataracts were present. Importantly, the odds of depressive symptoms were similar for subjects with cataracts in 1 eye versus both eyes.

The association between cataracts and depression was even stronger for subjects with no formal education (a 50% increase). After all other factors were taken into account, cataracts explained 14% of the variation in depression risk.

The researchers noted that their study cannot show the direction of the association -- vision loss might cause older adults to become isolated and withdrawn or depression might make them less likely to seek treatment for cataracts.

SOURCE: Wolters Kluwer Health
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