Depression secondary to vision loss in old age and an effective rapid screening tool for undiagnosed cases

Noah Clancy, Tariq Aslam, Peter Cackett

Research output: Contribution to journalComment/debatepeer-review


BACKGROUND: Zenebe et al. recently stated that despite depression being a common mental health problem in the elderly population, it is underdiagnosed in over half of the cases (Zenebe et al. in Ann Gen Psychiatry, 2021). They described an extensive list of risk factors associated with geriatric depression. However, we noted that they did not include ophthalmic conditions in this list which have previously been identified as an important risk factor for depression in the elderly.

MAIN BODY: To determine the extent of undiagnosed anxiety and depression in our elderly population with vision loss, we screened a cohort of our patients, over 60 years with vision loss secondary to macular disease for both conditions. Our cohort included 104 patients with mean best corrected visual acuity 0.58 LogMAR (Snellen equivalent 6/24). In this group, we identified 29.8% (31/104) and 28.8% (30/104) of patients with at least one depression or anxiety-related symptom, respectively, in the past 2 weeks. We identified 7.7% (8/104) and 3.8% (4/104) who had significant symptoms of depression and anxiety, respectively, that warranted further follow-up. Only two of these patients had previously been diagnosed with anxiety or depression with the majority having no previous history of either condition. Patients from our cohort who screened for depression or anxiety often cited frustration completing tasks and loss of independence secondary to declining vision. They also complained that the vision loss resulted in a lack of confidence which in turn resulted in social isolation and loneliness. Most of the patients welcomed referral to their GP for follow-up for input regarding their mental health and they also stated an interest in attending hospital optometry low vision services and counselling support.

CONCLUSIONS: With increasing time pressures on healthcare services and the rising use of virtual clinics especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, it is still essential to screen efficiently for depression in those elderly patients who are at significant risk. There is a considerable burden of major depressive disease in the geriatric population, and we would recommend that physicians (Geriatricians, GPs, Ophthalmologists etc.) screen elderly patients with vision loss for depression using the rapid screening tool which we suggest.

Original languageEnglish
Article number15
Pages (from-to)15
JournalAnnals of general psychiatry
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2 Jun 2022


  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Macula
  • Vision loss


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