The Association of Cognitive and Visual Function in a Nationally Representative Study of Older Adults in India

Neuroepidemiology. 2021;55(2):126-134. doi: 10.1159/000513813. Epub 2021 Feb 24.


Introduction: Due to population aging, India is poised to experience a large increase in the burden of both dementia and vision impairment (VI). Prior studies from other settings suggest that VI may be a modifiable risk factor for cognitive decline and dementia. However, to date, no studies have examined the association of impaired visual acuity and cognition in India.

Methods: A total of 3,784 participants in wave 1 of the population-based Diagnostic Assessment of Dementia for the Longitudinal Aging Study in India underwent visual acuity testing and a cognitive test battery. Multivariable linear regression was used to model the cross-sectional associations of mild (<6/12-6/16), moderate (<6/18-6/60), and severe visual acuity impairment/blindness (<6/60) with cognitive performance scores corresponding to total cognition, orientation, memory, language/fluency, executive function, and informant-reported cognitive status. Models were adjusted for demographic, socioeconomic, and health characteristics.

Results: The weighted percentage of participants with any VI was 52.6%. VI was independently associated with lower cognitive scores across all domains, even after adjustment for known dementia risk factors. In fully adjusted models of total cognition (mean score: 130.7), mild, moderate, and severe VI/blindness were associated with a significant change of -3.5 (95% CI: -6.3, -0.6), -8.2 (95% CI -10.5, -5.6), and -16.8 (95% CI -22.3, -11.3) units, respectively. A dose-response association between level of VI and cognitive function was observed for all cognitive outcomes except for language/fluency domain scores. Associations were robust when cognitive tests dependent on visual function were excluded. Across each fully adjusted model of total, domain-specific, and informant-reported cognitive performance, moderate VI was equivalent to 5-9 years of cognitive aging.

Discussion/conclusion: This study illustrates that VI is cross-sectionally associated with lower cognitive performance, largely in a dose-response pattern, across various cognitive domains in the Indian population. These findings are important for informing future longitudinal and interventional studies.

Keywords: Blindness; Cognitive impairment; Dementia; Epidemiology; Vision impairment.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aging*
  • Cognition
  • Cognitive Dysfunction* / epidemiology
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Humans
  • India / epidemiology
  • Neuropsychological Tests