The psychosocial impact of sight loss on older people: An update of the evidence

Authors: Nyman, S.R., Gosney, M.A. and Victor, C.R.

Conference: BSG 2008: 37th Annual Conference of the British Society of Gerontology: Sustainable futures in an ageing world

Dates: 6-9 September 2008


Sight loss is common in old age and is projected to rise with an ageing population. We reviewed the literature that assessed the psychosocial impact of sight loss on older people. Using previous search terms (Burmedi et al., 2002), we searched Medline and PsycInfo for published quantitative studies in English from 2001 - October 2007. Four terms for visual impairment were systematically combined with 16 emotional adjustment terms and 27 social relation terms. 77 papers were reviewed and their quality assessed using Downs and Black’s (1998) score.

Depression was associated with sight loss, and perhaps mediated by loss of functioning (measured by activities of daily living). Some support was found for interventions in reducing depression including rehabilitation, counselling, self-management, and problem-solving. The relationship between sight loss and anxiety was mixed. Sight loss was associated with reduced well-being, but was buffered by spirituality, optimism, positive social comparisons, and goal pursuits.

Sight loss was associated with poorer social functioning, however, the older person’s social network did not necessarily change from acquiring sight loss. Support from family and friends reduced subthreshold and major depression, and enhanced well-being, adaptation, and functioning. Greater life satisfaction was related to the person with sight loss providing support to their family, and group support for partners of those with sight loss improved partner communication.

Sight loss is linked with depression, reduced quality of life, and poorer social functioning. However, certain psychological buffers, interventions, and social support appear effective in alleviating the psychosocial impact of sight loss.

Source: Manual

Preferred by: Samuel Nyman