Cataracts Linked to Increased Odds of Depression in Older Adults

According to an interesting new study, older people suffering from cataract are more likely to suffer from depression as well. The link between cataract and depression may seem unlikely, but it is definitely there, and appears in older people with a low level of education.

The study was done at a Chinese University and sheds more light on the link between aging, cataract, vision loss and depression, who were previously unrelated by science.

The symptoms of depression in older people with cataract

Cataract usually occurs over age and is the leading cause of visual impairment around the world. Depression is also common among the elderly, which is why the Chinese scientists investigated if there’s a link between the two. After performing the study, they were stunned by the results. They examined more than 4000 people over 60 in a Chinese town, who were asked to complete a depression questionnaire. At the same time, the subjects underwent eye exams in order to detect cataract. As we all know, cataracts are common among the elderly – the condition is actually a clouding of the eye lens caused by aging which can affect your eyesight and is the leading cause of vision loss.

Almost 50% of the subjects had cataract on one eye, excluding those with previous cataract removal surgery. 8% of the participants were suffering from depression symptoms according to the questionnaire, and, surprisingly, these symptoms were more common in women than men. They were also more common in the older subjects, who were more likely to experience depression symptoms, regardless of visual acuity, lifestyle factors or socioeconomic status. When the analysis was adjusted, the symptoms of depression were 33% more likely to occur in people suffering from cataract as well. The symptoms of depression were almost the same in people with cataract in one or both eyes.

The link between cataract and depression was even more common among those with no education. When all the other factors were taken into account, cataracts explained 14% variation in the risk of depression. For now, the scientists are unable to conclude why both diseases are connected. It can either be because of the major vision loss which drives people to isolate from society, od because depression makes them less likely to seek medical treatment in cases of vision loss.

As Dr. Michael Twa, one of the authors of the study says, the results suggest that ophthalmologists should start thinking out of the box in cases of cataract. “Cataract can clearly have a broader effect on our mental health, and doesn’t affect our vision alone,” Dr. Twa said. “At the moment, we’re trying to learn if the depression in the elderly with cataract is actually reversible after getting the cataract removed, but it’s too early to confirm anything,” he concludes.


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