UBC Faculty Research and Publications

Vision loss, vision difficulty and psychological distress in South Africa: results from SANHANES-1 Akuffo, Kwadwo O; Sewpaul, Ronel; Darrah, Samson; Dukhi, Natisha; Kumah, David B; Agyei-Manu, Eldad; Addo, Emmanuel K; Asare, Akosua Kesewah; Duah Jr, Isaiah Osei; Reddy, Priscilla


Background: Psychological distress in vision impairments and blindness is a complex issue and a major public health concern. Sudden adjustments in routine lifestyle and career aspirations in such persons culminate in and/or aggravate their level of stress. Yet, psychological distress in persons with visual difficulties and vision loss in South Africa is poorly understood. We investigated the association between psychological distress and self-reported vision difficulties as well as clinician-assessed vision loss using data from the South African National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (SANHANES-1). Methods: Data was analysed on participants aged ≥ 15 years who participated in the SANHANES-1 clinical examinations and interviews. Data on demographic, socio-economic, and health status variables were gathered using a structured questionnaire. Psychological distress was assessed using the Kessler psychological distress scale (K10). Vision assessment was conducted by clinicians adhering to standard protocols as well as by participants’ subjective response to vision-related questions. Vision loss was defined as presenting visual acuity worse than Snellen 6/12 in the better eye. Bivariate and multiple logistic regressions were used to examine the association between vision parameters and psychological distress. Results: The analytic sample comprised 6859 participants with mean age of 38.4 years (60.8% females). The prevalence of psychological distress was 19.9%. After adjusting for demographics, socioeconomic, health risk and eye care variables, self-reported myopia (mild adjusted odds ratio [AOR] = 1.9, 95% CI 1.3–2.7; moderate AOR = 2.4, 95% CI 1.6–3.7; severe AOR = 3.6, 95% CI 1.8–7.3) and self-reported hyperopia (mild AOR = 1.7, 95% CI 1.2–2.5; moderate AOR = 2.4, 95% CI 1.5–3.8; severe AOR = 3.5, 95% CI 1.8–6.8) were significantly associated with psychological distress. While psychological distress was higher in patients with clinician assessed vision loss than those with normal vision, the association was not statistically significant after adjusting for confounders (AOR: 1.0, 95% CI 0.7–1.4). Conclusions: Persons who self-reported vision difficulty experienced a higher prevalence of psychological distress. Therefore, comprehensive psychological care is needed for patients with eye disease or vision difficulties as part of a governmental strategy to provide mental health care for all South Africans.

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