Is there a relationship between visual disturbances and depressive symptoms?

A businesswoman at work in the office massaging her eyelids to relax.


According to the German Depression Aid Foundation, approximately 25% of women and 12.5% of men experience depression during their lifetime. In this context, a recently published study cites a visual disorder in middle age as a possible risk factor for a depressive illness - the analysis was carried out on women in their menopause since the 1990s as part of the SWAN study.

A businesswoman at work in the office massaging her eyelids to relax. / fizkes

Visual impairment in women:

Visual impairment includes pathological changes in visual perception, depending on the cause. These may manifest as decreasing visual acuity, ocular flicker, flashing, field of vision impairment, or temporary blindness. Although decreased visual perception negatively affects physical health, the correlation with depressive symptoms in adults 40 to 65 years of age has not been explored. Evaluations show that especially women in this age group - compared to other age groups - have the highest number of cases of depressive disorders. Furthermore, women have a higher rate of depression cases than men. Recent analyses provide evidence that reduced visual acuity at this age is associated with a higher risk of possible symptoms of depressive illness. It should be noted that many of these conditions affecting visual perception occur before middle age. These include correctable refractive errors and cataracts, as well as more serious conditions such as glaucoma, diabetic retinopathy, hypertensive retinopathy, and macular degeneration.

In this context, the study published in the scientific journal Menopauseinvestigated the influence of vision on depressive symptoms in the female age group of 40 to 65-year-olds. The data analyzed were based on the multi-site, longitudinal epidemiological Study of Women's Health Across the Nation, or SWAN study.

The relevance of the study stems from the high prevalence of depression globally - The Depression Report of the Austrian Ministry of Social Affairs speaks of approximately 6.5% of the adult Austrian population.

SWAN Study:

The SWAN study examined physical, biological, psychological, and social changes during the midlife phase. It has followed middle-aged women at the beginning of their menopause since the late 1990s to investigate the impact of hormonal changes on physical and mental health. This is not only to assist scientists and individuals in the health care field, but is also significant to women's health and quality of life.

The analysis was supported by the National Institute on Aging (NIA for short), the National Institute of Nursing Research(NINR), the National Institutes of Health(NIH), the Office of Research on Women's Health, and the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine.

This involved analysis of visual acuity for distance vision (i.e., distance visual acuity) at six consecutive near-annual follow-up examinations. Visual impairment was described as either mild (20/30 - 20/60) or moderate (20/70 or worse). Patients were additionally assessed for depressive symptoms at each visit using a Depression Scale.Statistical analysis procedures with estimating equations were used to analyze the association between visual disturbances and depressive symptoms. The study focused on age-specific risk factors for depression, which are more common in women than in men.


Results showed that a significant longitudinal association exists between mild or moderate visual impairment and later depressive symptoms in women in this age group. 53.5% of the women studied had mild visual impairment and 8.0% had moderate visual impairment. The results showed a 2.55-fold higher likelihood of these women exhibiting depressive symptoms at the next examination than women in the same age group without visual impairment. The following factors were considered: Age, Origin, Prevalent Depressive Symptoms, Education, Economic Status, BMI, and Smoking Behavior.

When data were further adjusted with the inclusion of diabetes, hypertension, and osteoarthritis as factors, the associations were no longer statistically significant.


Visual disturbances were associated with an increased risk of subsequent depressive symptoms in women in the age group 40 to 65 years. Researchers of the longitudinal analysis suggest that early detection and correction of visual impairment are significant steps in maintaining mental health outcomes among women in this age group. Visual impairments could have a negative impact on a person's mental state, possibly leading to long-term mental health disorders. Since many visual impairments are treatable, treatment by an optometrist or ophthalmologist could potentially have a positive effect, thereby maintaining a sustainable mental health status in midlife women.


Depression can be a serious mental illness found in any age group. If you suspect depressive symptoms in yourself or a relative or acquaintance, you should not wait to seek help. Therefore, in the link below (not sponsored) you will find a database for the area of Austria to find specialized support depending on the province and category.

Bündnis Depression: Offers of help in Austria

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All information used for the content comes from verified sources (recognised institutions, experts, studies by renowned universities). We attach great importance to the qualification of the authors and the scientific background of the information. Thus, we ensure that our research is based on scientific findings.
Danilo Glisic

Danilo Glisic

As a biology and mathematics student, he is passionate about writing magazine articles on current medical topics. Due to his affinity for facts, figures and data, his focus is on describing relevant clinical trial results.

The content of this page is an automated and high-quality translation from DeepL. You can find the original content in German here.

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