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Visual Impairment and Suicide Risk

In 2016, a nationwide US survey found that “across all ethnic and racial demographics, nearly 88 percent of Americans responded that they viewed eye health as critical to overall health.” (1). The association between vision and a person’s mental health still requires closer scrutiny, however. To this end, a multi-institutional study from a number of Korean universities and the Trinity Biomedical Sciences Institute in Dublin, Ireland, aims to fill in the gaps in the literature linking suicidal behaviour and visual impairment.

The researchers conducted a systematic review of 31 population-based studies, consisting of 5,692,769 individuals, comparing rates of suicidal behavior (including both suicide attempts and death from suicide) in those with visual impairments to those individuals without visual impairments. The study authors observed a “pronounced risk” in suicidal tendencies among visually impaired adolescents. However, they also note that adolescence can be a complex stage of an individual’s life, and symptoms that are also related to heightened suicidal risk, such as stress, anxiety, and general distress, are also more common in this age group.

One study cited by the authors is Rainey and colleagues (2), who interviewed visually impaired adolescents and found that these individuals were worried about prejudice from future employers, the ability to live independently, and financial issues they might encounter because of their disability.

With regard to the link of higher suicide risk evidenced throughout the 31 studies, the authors recommend that “clinicians remain attentive to the elevated risk and be ready to implement suitable suicide prevention measures when required, especially when dealing with adolescents."

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  1. AW Scott et al., “Public Attitudes About Eye and Vision Health,” JAMA Ophthalmol, 134, 1111 (2016). PMID: 27490785.
  2. L Rainey et al., “Comprehending the impact of low vision on the lives of children and adolescents: a qualitative approach,” 25, 2633 (2016). PMID: 27076189.
About the Author
Alun Evans

Coming from a creative writing background, I have a great interest in fusing original, narrative-driven concepts with informative, educational content. Working at The Ophthalmologist allows me to connect with the great minds working in the field of contemporary eye care, and explore the human element involved in their scientific breakthroughs.

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