Receiving a diagnosis of any kind of visual impairment is life-altering and can take a toll on patients’ well-being. In a recent study, researchers investigated the correlation between visual impairment and depression in patients who visit eye care services, and the results were staggering.

Twenty-seven studies that included mostly patients ages 65 and older were a part of this meta-analysis, which showed that one in four patients with visual impairment who attended eye care services were affected by depression.

The authors suggest the finding of depression was even more common in patients in clinical services compared to those who use rehabilitation services, “which could reflect patients’ initial shock of receiving a diagnosis of an irreversible eye disease.”

“Alternatively, the lower rates of depression associated with rehabilitation services could be due to the fact that initiating low vision rehabilitation has beneficial effects on perceived depression, or it could be due to self-selection of patients who were less depressed seeking help in low vision services,” the authors explained in their study. “The high rates of depression in adults with visual impairment are often overlooked or underestimated in primary care offices and eye clinics.”

The authors noted these patients are not commonly assessed with appropriate diagnostic procedures, screenings and treatment, and should be directed to their general practitioner and/or a psychiatrist. Further research should address this.

Parravano M, Petri D, Maurutto E, et al. Association between visual impairment and depression in patients attending eye clinics. JAMA Ophthalmology. Epub ahead of print.