Self-efficacy refers to an individual’s belief in their ability to successfully complete tasks or reach desired outcomes. Research shows that people with higher self-efficacy are generally more satisfied with their life. But for the one billion people who make up the world’s visual impairment population, self-efficacy and quality of life may not be as strongly correlated. Interestingly, the results of a recent survey demonstrate that those with visual impairments have higher levels of self-efficacy than the general population, but lower levels of overall life satisfaction.

Participants representing the visual impairment population included 736 adult members of the Norwegian Association of the Blind and Partially Sighted. Of these, 35% were moderately impaired, 40% were severely impaired and 25% were blind. For general population data, researchers recruited individuals from the Norwegian Population Study, 1,792 of which successfully completed the questionnaire and were included in the analysis. 

All individuals completed a telephone survey. The General Self-efficacy Scale was used to measure and quantify individuals’ self-belief in coping with demands and challenges of life. Scores range from 10 to 40; the higher the score, the higher the general self-efficacy. Life satisfaction among patients with visual impairment was measured using a psychological tool called Cantril’s Ladder of Life Satisfaction; for the general population, researchers asked them one question: “How has your quality of life been during the last week?” A score of one indicates the poorest quality, while a score of 10 indicates excellent quality. Various sociodemographic characteristics for each participant were also analyzed. 

The visually impaired population achieved higher mean scores on self-efficacy compared to the general population (31.5 vs. 29). This was true for all age groups, especially for older participants. Socioeconomic factors associated with lower self-efficacy included less education, being unmarried, being residential in rural areas, having additional impairments and a history of physical or sexual assault. On the flip side, higher self-efficacy was associated with higher education and being residential in urban areas.

Despite self-efficacy being generally higher in the visually impaired, likely due to the experience of learning to master tasks with such an impairment, life satisfaction was significantly lower among this group than the general population. Researchers suspect that this “may be due to restricted access to information, reduced mobility, lower education, more loneliness and more adversities such as experiences with bullying, abuse or mental disorders,” they wrote in their paper. Limiting social or structural barriers in society would help to increase this population’s life satisfaction by offering more equal opportunities. 

A linear relationship did exist between self-efficacy and life satisfaction in both population groups, which supports the finding from previous research that self-efficacy is a critical factor of a good life. Those with visual impairments may find it beneficial to build a stronger belief in their ability to cope with challenges. The growing innovation of universal designs and expanded access to opportunities and physical environments should help to increase life satisfaction ratings among the visually impaired to reach that of the rest of the population.

Brunes A, Hansen MB, Heir T. General self-efficacy in individuals with visual impairment compared with the general population. PLoS ONE. July 2, 2021. Epub ahead of print.