Project Details


The problem:
Mental ill health is estimated to cost the EU around €277 billion/year and yet less than one third of affected people receive any treatment, with marked age, gender, socio-economic and ethnicity inequalities amongst those who do. Studies point strongly to the need for a significantly greater understanding of the factors that drive mental ill-health in the EU, particularly in the seniors. Amongst the most neglected and under-recognised of these are factors related to hearing and vision (“sensory”) impairment. Around seven in ten Europeans over the age of 65 live with either sight or hearing loss and over two-thirds live with depression and other mental illnesses. Dementia and cognitive impairment steadily rise in prevalence over the age of 65 to the point where almost one-third of Europeans at the age of 90 are affected. The overlap between sensory, cognitive and mental ill-health is substantial and all three impact significantly on each other. All are considered to be amongst the highest contributory factors in reducing the quality of life for older adults and can also have a significant impact on the lives of carers.

The solution:
To solve these important challenges SENSE-Cog will contribute solutions through an ambitious programme of collaborative research across six work packages (WPs) with the following key aims:

Exploration (WP1): to understand the links between hearing, vision, cognitive and emotional systems amongst older Europeans in different communities in order to promote early diagnosis and plan health services and interventions;

Assessment (WP2): to improve the early detection and diagnosis of sensory, cognitive and emotional problems in older people through specially adapted assessment and e-health check tools;

Intervention (WP3): to determine the effectiveness of newly developed vision and hearing support interventions in improving quality of life and functional ability in people with dementia, and supporting their caregivers;

Valuation (WP4): 
to provide new information about the economic impact of sensory impairment on mental health and use of health services for older Europeans, and on the cost effectiveness of sensory support to improve mental well-being, quality of life and provision of services.

Participation, dissemination, and communication (WP5): to raise awareness and communicate the message that sensory health (hearing and vision) is a key feature of mental well-being that can be addressed to support patients and their carers, health professionals and policymakers.

Management, governance and ethics (WP6): to ensure timely delivery of results in line with the highest standards of ethical conduct and governance.

Key findings

First Progress Report: Poor mental health, hearing and vision impairment are all within the top 10 highest burden of disease within the EU, and are very important from the perspective of public health. Mental ill-health costs the EU over €277 billion/year (2005). Poor mental health, hearing and vision impairment frequently co-occur and are all strongly associated with age and due to ageing population demographics, the numbers of people with these conditions are set to increase. For hearing and vision impairment, numbers will double by 2030. Mental and cognitive health and sensory impairment are not independent. Hearing loss and vision impairment is linked to depression, poor cognitive function, social isolation, and reduced quality of life. To address this, SENSE-Cog’s aims are to: (1) understand the inter-relationship of sensory and cognitive impairments; (2) identify novel means of screening/detection for diagnostic and therapeutic purposes; and (3) translate this knowledge into clinical applications for the mental well-being of EU citizens.g health checks.
Short titleR:KAF SENSE-Cog Project
Effective start/end date1/01/1631/12/20

UN Sustainable Development Goals

In 2015, UN member states agreed to 17 global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all. This project contributes towards the following SDG(s):

  • SDG 3 - Good Health and Well-being


  • dementia
  • vision impairment
  • hearing
  • age
  • Europe


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