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Summary: Even while using visual aids such as glasses or contact lenses, 28% of people over the age of 71 report visual impairments and poor eyesight.
Source: University of Michigan
New research shows that 28% of people over the age of 71 have a visual impairment, even while wearing their regular glasses, contact lenses, or other visual aids.
“These findings are important to address, as poor vision is associated with several adverse outcomes for older adults, including depression, dementia, falls, motor vehicle accidents, and even death,” said Olivia J. Killeen, M.D., a Clinical Lecturer in the Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences at Michigan Medicine, who is lead author of a new study published in JAMA Ophthalmology.
The research, which represents the first nationally representative data on objectively assessed visual function in over 14 years, found that different types of visual impairment are associated with older age as well as with less education and lower income.
Both near visual acuity and contrast sensitivity impairments were greater among non-Hispanic Black and Hispanic individuals, compared to non-Hispanic white individuals. Additionally, lower education and income were associated with all types of visual impairment.
Other studies have found that the cost of caring for older adults with vision impairment and blindness in the U.S. is high—as of 2017, it was $134.2 billion annually. Many older adults simply need updated eyeglasses to treat their visual impairment, yet many adults with visual impairment will face financial barriers to care. For example, traditional Medicare, a main insurer of older adults in the United States, only provides eyeglass benefits following cataract surgery, leaving many adults to pay out-of-pocket for their visual aids.
Joshua Ehrlich, M.D., M.P.H, assistant professor in the Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences and the study’s senior author, said this type of research can help improve public health outcomes when it comes to supporting adults with visual impairment.
“The up-to-date data presented in this study are vital for informing surveillance of vision health in the U.S. and may enable public health programs to target those at highest risk of poor vision,” said Ehrlich.
The study is based on data from The National Health and Aging Trends Study, which is based at the U-M Institute for Social Research and the Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health.
Author: Press Office
Source: University of Michigan
Contact: Press Office – University of Michigan
Image: The image is in the public domain
Original Research: Closed access.
“Population Prevalence of Vision Impairment in US Adults 71 Years and Older” by Olivia J. Killeen et al. JAMA Opthalmology
Population Prevalence of Vision Impairment in US Adults 71 Years and Older
Existing estimates of the prevalence of vision impairment (VI) in the United States are based on self-reported survey data or measures of visual function that are at least 14 years old. Older adults are at high risk for VI and blindness. There is a need for up-to-date, objectively measured, national epidemiological estimates.
To present updated national epidemiological estimates of VI and blindness in older US adults based on objective visual function testing.
Design, Setting, and Participants
This survey study presents a secondary data analysis of the 2021 National Health and Aging Trends Study (NHATS), a population-based, nationally representative panel study of Medicare beneficiaries 65 years and older. NHATS includes community-dwelling older adults or their proxies who complete in-person interviews; annual follow-up interviews are conducted regardless of residential status. Round 11 NHATS data were collected from June to November 2021, and data were analyzed in August 2022.
In 2021, NHATS incorporated tablet-based tests of distance and near visual acuity and contrast sensitivity with habitual correction.
Main Outcomes and Measures
National prevalence of impairment in presenting distance visual acuity (>0.30 logMAR, Snellen equivalent worse than 20/40), presenting near visual acuity (>0.30 logMAR, Snellen equivalent worse than 20/40), and contrast sensitivity (>1 SD below the sample mean). Prevalence estimates stratified by age and socioeconomic and demographic data were calculated.
In the 2021 round 11 NHATS sample, there were 3817 respondents. After excluding respondents who did not complete the sample person interview (n = 429) and those with missing vision data (n = 362), there were 3026 participants. Of these, 29.5% (95% CI, 27.3%-31.8%) were 71 to 74 years old, and 55.2% (95% CI, 52.8%-57.6%) were female respondents. The prevalence of VI in US adults 71 years and older was 27.8% (95% CI, 25.5%-30.1%). Distance and near visual acuity and contrast sensitivity impairments were prevalent in 10.3% (95% CI, 8.9%-11.7%), 22.3% (95% CI, 20.3%-24.3%), and 10.0% (95% CI, 8.5%-11.4%), respectively. Older age, less education, and lower income were associated with all types of VI. A higher prevalence of near visual acuity and contrast sensitivity impairments was associated with non-White race and Hispanic ethnicity.
Conclusions and Relevance
More than 1 in 4 US adults 71 years and older had VI in 2021, higher than prior estimates. Differences in the prevalence of VI by socioeconomic and demographic factors were observed. These data could inform public health planning.
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