Preventive care is associated with decreased morbidity and mortality, among older adults especially. However, researchers at the Wilmer Eye Institute at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine believe that vision impairment may be a barrier to accessing care and health promotion information and, therefore, may contribute to decreased preventive care uptake.

In a study of US residents age 50 and older, the team found that patients with vision impairment may be less likely to use cancer-related preventive services, such as breast and colon cancer screening. They also determined vision impairment status made no difference in the odds of reporting influenza and pneumococcal vaccines.

The study assessed data from the 2015 and 2018 National Health Interview Survey (NHIS) and the 2016 and 2018 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS). The researchers noted self-reported uptake of breast cancer screening (women age 50 to 74), colon cancer screening (age 50 to 74), influenza vaccination (50 and older) and pneumococcal vaccination (65 and older).

Among the 41,774 NHIS participants, older US individuals with vision impairment (prevalence between 14.3% and 16.3% depending on the age group) were less likely to report breast cancer screening and colon cancer screening  but not influenza vaccination and pneumococcal vaccination. In the BRFSS group of 758,676 patients, those with vision impairment (prevalence between 5.9% and 6.8%) were less likely than those without vision impairment to report breast cancer screening, colon cancer screening and pneumococcal vaccination but not influenza vaccination.

While the researchers understand their investigation cannot determine whether vision impairment affects preventive care, their results suggest that older US individuals with vision impairment may be less likely to use preventive care services. This may highlight an opportunity to improve health care use for elderly populations.

Assi L, Varadaraj V, Shakarchi AF, et al. Association of vision impairment with preventive care use among older adults in the United States. JAMA Ophthalmol. October 29, 2020. [Epub ahead of print].