Visual Impairment Raises Risk of Suicide

Improving ophthalmologic treatment may reduce poor health and lower suicide risk

TUESDAY, July 15 (HealthDay News) -- Visual impairment is indirectly associated with a higher risk of suicide, researchers report in the July issue of the Archives of Ophthalmology.

Byron L. Lam, M.D., of the University of Miami School of Medicine, and colleagues analyzed data on 137,479 adults who were surveyed by the National Center for Health Statistics from 1986 through 1996, and for whom mortality data up to 2002 was available from the National Death Index.

During the mean follow-up of 11 years, there were 200 identified suicide deaths, and there was an elevated association between visual impairment and risk of suicide. However, the association was not always statistically significant. It did not directly affect suicide risk but indirectly raised it through poor self-rated health (hazard ratio, 1.05) and through the number of non-ocular conditions (HR, 1.12), the researchers report.

"Up to two-thirds of people who commit suicide have some type of physician contact in their last month and physician education is effective in reducing suicide rates. Our results suggest older adults and those with non-ocular health conditions, poor self-rated health, and reported visual impairment are at increased suicide risk," the authors write. "Improved treatments of visual impairment and factors causing poor health could potentially reduce suicide risk."

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