Sight loss link to depression is reported

A study by the Thomas Pocklington Trust has found that people with visual impairment are at higher risk of depression

30 Jun 2016 by Emily McCormick

Counsellor consults patientPeople with sight loss are at an increased risk of developing depression, according to a new report published by the Thomas Pocklington Trust.

Researchers completing a literature review on behalf of the charity reported a “clear” association with visual impairment and an increased prevalence of depression. Furthermore, they identified that the link between vision impairment and depression was “particularly” connected to the extent of which a person with sight loss was able to perform daily living activities.  

Sharing findings from the Visual impairment, depression and access to psychological therapies report, the charity highlighted that visually impaired people feel that improvements to how depression is recognised, access to services and better use of support staff, family and carers is needed.

Alongside the literature review, researchers interviewed a wide range of people including those with visual impairment, key professionals and support staff. They also tested introductory training workshops designed to improve people’s confidence in recognising depression in those with sight loss and how to support access to treatment.

Speaking about the findings, Dr Ian Petch, who carried out the review said: “People with visual impairment told us that support staff, family and careers needed to be better included in initiatives to improve recognition of depression and access to services. Support staff also said they needed to be equipped with the necessary knowledge and skills to identify the possibility of depression and support access to appropriate services.”

Unfortunately, the charity reported that national data available through the Health and Social Care Information Centre suggests that only small numbers of people with visual impairment are accessing treatment services through the Improving Access to Psychological Therapies (IAPT) programme. However, more positively, those who do access the service are as equally likely to engage in the treatment process as much as those without visual impairment.

Research and policy director at the Thomas Pocklington Trust, Phil Ambler, said: “It’s really important blind and partially sighted individuals can access the IAPT services they need. We hope professionals recognise this and refer more people onto them."

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