Mapping glaucoma and socioeconomic status

Big data approach finds link between a patient’s postcode and severity of glaucoma on diagnosis


Delegates to the College of Optometrists' annual conference, Optometry Tomorrow (18–19 March, Birmingham), heard how people in regions with the lowest socioeconomic status present with glaucoma at a later stage than those in the wealthiest postcodes.

“Your postcode is like a little bit of DNA because it’s associated with different health outcomes,” Professor David Crabb highlighted during his presentation Big data, visual fields and glaucoma.

In order to analyse glaucoma presentation and socioeconomic status, Professor Crabb’s research lab retrospectively gathered information on more than 50,000 patients attending NHS glaucoma clinics in four regions in England.

Anonymised patient data was analysed according to a range of factors, including age, a measure of visual field loss (mean deviation) in the worst eye at first presentation and partial postcode data.

After correcting for age, researchers found that patients in areas with lower socioeconomic status according to the index of multiple deprivation generally had more extensive visual field loss at first presentation than those from higher socioeconomic areas.

Professor Crabb emphasised that while connecting socioeconomic status and health outcomes is not new, the research aims to put a “spotlight” on the issue for glaucoma.

“We know that late presentation is a predictor of whether someone will be visually impaired within their lifetime,” he highlighted.

Professor Crabb added that men are, on average, more likely to present with advanced glaucoma than women.

“This mirrors what we know about men’s reluctance to engage in health seeking behaviour in primary care,” Professor Crabb elaborated.