Visual impairment and vision-related quality of life in working-age adults: findings in the 1958 British birth cohort

Ophthalmology. 2009 Feb;116(2):270-4. doi: 10.1016/j.ophtha.2008.09.018. Epub 2008 Dec 16.


Purpose: To describe the prevalence of impaired vision and its relative burden, together with the prevalence of impaired vision-related quality of life (VRQOL), and investigate associations with social outcomes in a contemporary and nationally representative population of working age adults.

Design: Population-based cross-sectional study.

Participants: We included 9330 members of the 1958 British birth cohort at age 44 and 45 years.

Methods: "Habitual" and "best achieved" distance visual acuity in each eye, binocular near vision acuity and stereoacuity (three dimensional/depth perception) were tested during a broader biomedical examination. VRQOL was assessed using the Vision-related Quality of Life Core Measure 1 (VCM1), a validated, 10-item, self-complete instrument. Logistic and proportional odds ordinal logistic regression were used to calculate odds ratios (ORs) of the association of VRQOL with visual acuities and social outcomes.

Main outcome measures: Distance, near, and stereo acuities and VRQOL and social outcomes.

Results: Of the 1.3% (124) of those with visual loss that precluded driving, a further 0.75% (70) were visually impaired or severely visually impaired and 0.15% (14) blind, the latter accounting for 19% total population (all ages) burden of blindness. Impairment of VRQOL is strongly associated with impaired distance, near, and stereo vision, as well as with adverse occupational and other social outcomes. However, VRQOL impairment is also sometimes reported with unilateral or mild bilateral visual loss.

Conclusions: Although impaired vision in working age adults is relatively uncommon, it confers important adverse consequences for the "health and wealth" of the public. This may be captured best by assessment of VRQOL in addition to objective visual function. Ophthalmic disorders occurring or impacting in middle life should be given a higher priority than currently in national and international strategies against avoidable visual disability.

Financial disclosure(s): Proprietary or commercial disclosure may be found after the references.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Blindness / epidemiology*
  • Blindness / physiopathology
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Prevalence
  • Quality of Life*
  • Sickness Impact Profile
  • Social Perception
  • United Kingdom / epidemiology
  • Vision, Low / epidemiology*
  • Vision, Low / physiopathology
  • Visual Acuity / physiology
  • Visually Impaired Persons / statistics & numerical data*