"Participants who experienced visual decline of one letter on an eye chart were expected to have a 16 percent increase in mortality risk during the eight-year study because their vision affected daily activities," says Sharon Christ. (Credit: Leyram Odacrem/Flickr)

aging

Vision loss linked to higher death risk for older adults

Older adults who lose their vision as they age are more likely to face an increased risk of death, new research shows.

“Participants who experienced visual decline of one letter on an eye chart were expected to have a 16 percent increase in mortality risk during the eight-year study because their vision affected daily activities,” says Sharon Christ, assistant professor of human development and family studies at Purdue University.

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“These daily activities were not the necessary functioning activities such as bathing, dressing, and eating, but rather instrumental daily activities, such as telephone use, shopping, and preparing their own meals.

“When individuals were no longer able to engage in these activities because of visual impairments, their life expectancy was reduced.”

Researchers analyzed data from the Salisbury Eye Evaluation study that tracked the vision health of 2,520 older adults, ages 65-84.  Previous research shows poorer ocular health is related to increased mortality risk, but the mechanisms of this relationship were not clear because they were limited by a lack of information regarding changes in visual acuity and in functioning as people age, Christ says.

In the new study, published in JAMA Ophthalmology, researchers were able to measure vision level as well as the rate at which it declined.

More type 2 diabetes

Sensory impairments, such as vision health, often deteriorate as people age, but today’s older adults also have higher incidences of type 2 diabetes, which can create additional ocular problems.

“What we found reinforces the value of visual care through the life course,” Christ says. “Older individuals will benefit from early-detection services and as well as care to fix what are often correctable visual problems. A renewed focus on ocular health could save lives.”

Researchers at Johns Hopkins University and University of Miami also collaborated on the study.

The research was funded by the National Eye Institute.

Source: Purdue University

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