Impaired vision is associated with unemployment, low socioeconomic status, and general and mental health problems, says a long-term study by researchers at the Institute of Child Health, University College London. Poor vision was also associated with low birth weight, intrauterine growth retardation, maternal smoking during pregnancy, and socioeconomic deprivation in early childhood. The findings held true for all causes and levels of impairment. This is one of the largest studies to examine the impact of visual disability on social and occupational success.
"It is interesting that key prenatal and childhood factors known to be associated with serious adult health conditions like hypertension are also associated with visual function," said Jugnoo S. Rahi, PhD, lead researcher on the study. "We think further life-span research will reveal factors that contribute both to complex eye diseases, like glaucoma and macular degeneration, and to other major illnesses that apparently share etiologies with these eye disorders," she added.
Of 9,330 study participants, 1.3 percent had socially significant visual impairment–defined as inability to pass a driving test due to visual deficits–and another 0.9 percent had severe visual impairment or blindness. The study examined people at age 44 or 45 for near, distance and stereo visual acuity (the ability of the eyes to coordinate to provide clear images and depth perception). Participants were drawn from the 1958 British birth cohort, comprised of everyone born in Britain within a single week in 1958. Health data gathered in clinical exams from birth to middle age was available for all participants.
This research was published in the October issue of Ophthalmology.
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