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Invest Ophthalmol Vis Sci. 2004 Jan;45(1):71-6.

Impact of bilateral visual impairment on health-related quality of life: the Blue Mountains Eye Study.

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  • 1Department of Ophthalmology, University of Sydney, Sydney, Australia.



To assess the impact of visual impairment on health-related quality of life (HRQOL) in an older population and compare it with the impact of major medical conditions.


Participants of the second cross-sectional Blue Mountains Eye Study (BMES; n = 3509; mean age, 66.7 years; 57% female) were asked to complete the self-administered 36-item Short-Form health survey (SF-36), a comprehensive interview, and an eye examination. Visual impairment was defined as visual acuity less than 20/40 (better eye).


Of 3154 (89.9%) participants with complete data, 172 (5.5%) had visual impairment due to refractive errors (correctable visual impairment) and 66 (2.1%) due to eye conditions (noncorrectable visual impairment; 49 mild, 9 moderate, 8 severe). After adjustment for demographic and medical confounders, there was a trend toward lower SF-36 scores in participants with noncorrectable impairment than in those with correctable impairment (physical component score [PCS] Ptrend = 0.01 and mental component score [MCS] Ptrend = 0.02). Increasingly severe noncorrectable visual impairment was associated with significantly poorer SF-36 scores in all but two dimensions. The impact of noncorrectable visual impairment was comparable to that from major medical conditions (e.g., stroke) and had a greater impact on mental than physical domains (mean MCS = 46.2, PCS = 41). No significant differences in HRQOL were demonstrated between visual impairment cases caused by age-related maculopathy and cataract, after adjusting for severity of visual impairment.


Noncorrectable visual impairment was associated with reduced functional status and well-being, with a magnitude comparable to major medical conditions. These data have implications for disability weights such as those developed by the Global Burden of Disease study.

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