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Qual Life Res. 2014 Mar;23(2):697-705. doi: 10.1007/s11136-013-0506-6. Epub 2013 Aug 22.

Consequences of visual height intolerance for quality of life: a qualitative study.

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  • 1Institute for Medical Information Processing, Biometrics and Epidemiology (IBE), Ludwig-Maximilians Universität München, Marchioninistr. 17, 81377, Munich, Germany, florian.schaeffler@hm.edu.



Visual height intolerance (vHI) occurs when a trigger causes the apprehension of losing balance and falling. Depending on the severity of vHI, an avoidance behavior may develop in about 50 % of the thus afflicted, and it can have considerable impact on their daily life and interpersonal interactions. It seems obvious that such experiences may be impairing and distressing, but this has not yet been examined systematically. Objective of this study was to examine the consequences of vHI for quality of life.


A qualitative, phenomenological exploratory approach was chosen. Individual face-to-face interviews were conducted with individuals who had reported in a previous study that they were susceptible to vHI. The interview transcripts were segregated into distinct meaning units, which were used to create a coding guideline with meta- and subcodes. Meaning units were then systematically extracted and assigned to the appropriate codes. Weights and links were used to assign priorities for interpretation.


Eighteen participants were interviewed (mean age 53, range 30-73; 11 females). Data analysis resulted in 29 meta-codes and 115 subcodes. Responses indicated that vHI can be very disabling and has a relevant impact on quality of life and daily activities of the affected persons, including their family life and behavior towards partner, children and friends.


Relevant topics for further quantitative studies were identified, for example, strategies of compensation and the influence of vHI on family life. Other quantitative studies should determine whether comorbidities and the typologies found in this study have consequences for individual therapeutic approaches.

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