Objective: To determine the prevalence of depressive symptoms and their relationship to disability in older low vision patients.
Design: Panel study with 2-year follow-up.
Participants: Community-residing older people (N = 31).
Measurements: Geriatric Depression Scale, Community Disability Scale, and Snellen visual acuity.
Results: Twelve of 31 patients (38.7%) had GDS scores > or = 11 at baseline. Two years later, 10 of these 12 patients remained depressed, and three of the 19 (15.8%) previously nondepressed patients had become depressed. Depressed patients tended to be more disabled functionally than nondepressed patients at follow-up. The correlation of disability with depression and with vision were examined for the entire sample and revealed a strong correlation between disability and depression (r = .40; P = .013) compared with that of disability and vision (r = .34; P = .032) at baseline and at follow-up: depression (r = .68; P = .001), vision (r = .45; P = .006). There was no significant correlation between depression and vision at baseline (r = .06; P = .383), but there was a trend toward correlation at follow-up (r = .28; P = .067).
Conclusion: Depressive symptoms are prevalent and persistent among low vision patients and appear more highly related to disability than is vision. The frequent occurrence of depression and the availability of effective treatment argue for its recognition and treatment as possible ways to reduce disability in older persons with low vision.