Are blindness and depression linked?

The link between blindness and depression is being investigated by scientists. Researchers at Cardiff School of Optometry - founded in 1936 - are working in conjunction with the Guide Dogs for the Blind Association to carry out the Depression in Visual Impairment Trial, the BBC reports.

They are exploring the belief that more than one-third of visually-impaired individuals also suffer from the condition and anyone with eyesight-related issues are invited to take part in the study.

It is hoped the trial will be able to measure and combat negative feelings associated with poor vision, such as alcoholism and suicidal thoughts.

One of the co-investigators Dr Danny Smith said: "This study is all about demonstrating that the symptoms are all inter-related and that depressive thoughts are as much a part of sight loss as blurred vision or headaches."

Dr Smith explained the first stage of the research will look at older people, as they tend to have the most problems with their eyes.

Fellow of the British Psychological Society Dr Allan Dodds said: "The news is not really news, in my opinion, since it is now over 15 years ago that I identified what I called the 'unholy trinity' of anxiety, depression and low self-esteem that are common emotional sequelae of sight loss.

"My research also identified, through structural equation modelling, other factors that were associated with these emotions, such as low self-efficacy, negative attitudes to blindness that carried over from a sighted past, levels of acceptance or otherwise of disabilities, locus of control and attributional style. Together these comprised the Nottingham Adjustment Scale - a 55 item questionnaire that has been demonstrated to be reliable, valid and useful in identifying individuals with additional psychological needs.

"The questionnaire can also be used to evaluate the effectiveness of rehabilitative interventions, whether these are counselling, psychotherapy, skill acquisition or structured group discussions. Differences between teaching styles such as didactic versus structured discovery learning can also be evaluated in terms of their effectiveness on psychological adjustment to acquired sight loss.

"My own research confirmed that around 30 per cent of people losing most, if not all of their sight, exhibited depressed mood, and some of my sample (N=469) had suicidal ideation. Gender confusion was also exhibited by a minority if subjects who used the change of status following blindness to explore 'coming out' as transsexuals.

"I sincerely hope that the Guide Dogs do not attempt to reinvent the wheel and that they use the Nottingham Adjustment Scale as a routine screening/evaluative instrument."