September 11th 2023

National Eye Health Week (NEHW) – The Link between Mental Health and Eye Health

This month celebrates National Eye Health Week 2023 which looks at ways we can all improve our eye health. The organisers of National Eye Health Week (NEHW) are urging everyone in optics to get behind this year’s awareness campaign (18-24 September 2023) to help spread the word on eye health.

National Eye Health Week is the biggest and most effective independent public eye health campaign in the UK – sharing important eye care advice with tens of millions of people every year.

David Cartwright, chair of Eye Health UK, the charity responsible for running NEHW comments: “Awareness & public health messaging are key elements of the proposed national eye health strategy for England and are vital for improving the eye health of people across the UK. NEHW provides the ideal platform for the sector to come together to highlight the importance of routine eye tests and adopting healthy lifestyle habits to prevent avoidable sight loss and poor eye health. The more of us who support the campaign, the more efficacious it will be.  So, what are you waiting for? Let’s work together on this important prevention initiative, because vision matters. In our article, we explore the link between eye health and mental health.

Eye health and mental health may seem like two distinct and unrelated aspects of our well-being, but intriguingly, recent studies suggest a significant link between the two. Understanding this connection can provide a more holistic view of health and emphasise the importance of comprehensive healthcare.

  • Vision Loss and Mental Well-being

The most immediate connection between eye health and mental health is the psychological impact of vision impairment. People who experience vision loss, whether due to age, injury, or disease, often face challenges like:

  • Depression and Anxiety

A study published in the *Archives of Ophthalmology* found that vision impairment can double the risk of developing depression. The loss of vision can lead to feelings of isolation, decreased ability to participate in previously enjoyed activities, and increased dependence on others.

  • Decreased Social Interaction

Vision is a significant factor in social interactions. People with vision impairment might find it challenging to recognize faces, read social cues, or navigate social settings, leading to social withdrawal.

  • Cognitive Decline

There’s evidence to suggest that vision impairment can accelerate cognitive decline in the elderly. When the brain receives less visual input, cognitive functions might be adversely affected.

The Stress of Chronic Eye Conditions

Chronic eye conditions, such as glaucoma or diabetic retinopathy, not only affect vision but also bring about concern about the future. Worrying about potential vision loss or the progression of the disease can lead to chronic stress, which in turn has been linked to conditions like depression and anxiety.

The Bidirectional Relationship

Interestingly, while eye health can impact mental health, the reverse is also true. Severe mental health disorders can impact vision. For instance:

Physical Neglect

Those suffering from severe depression or psychosis might neglect their overall health, including eye health. Skipping regular eye check-ups or not updating prescription glasses can exacerbate vision problems.

The Power of Regular Check-ups

With the intertwining of eye health and mental health, the importance of regular check-ups cannot be overstressed. Routine eye exams can detect changes in vision and potential eye health issues. Likewise, discussing vision problems with mental health professionals can provide patients with coping strategies and necessary support.

The Role of Adaptation and Rehabilitation

For those with vision impairments, rehabilitation can play a significant role in improving quality of life. Learning adaptive techniques, using assistive devices, and undergoing therapy can empower individuals, reduce feelings of helplessness, and improve overall mental well-being.

As we continue to understand these links between physical and mental health better, it becomes evident that a holistic approach to health—one that considers both physical and mental well-being—is not just ideal but essential. We urge all for NEWH 2023 to look after both their mental and physical wellbeing and, if in doubt over your vision, to attend an eye test with your optician.

May 8th 2024

What are the Common Signs of Common Eye Conditions?

Common eye conditions span a wide range of disorders affecting the eyes and visual system, each presenting unique signs and symptoms. Recognising these signs is crucial for early detection, prompt treatment, and preservation of vision.…
May 7th 2024

What Does the Economic Forecast for 2024 Mean for Opticians and Clients?

The economic forecast for 2024 poses significant implications for opticians and their customers, as it shapes the environment in which they operate, make decisions, and deliver or access eye care services.
April 15th 2024

Understanding the Impact of Stress on Eye Health and Ways to Avoid It

In an increasingly busy world, stress has become an all but inevitable part of our daily lives. Whether it's work-related pressure, anxiety around finances or relationships, stress can manifest in various ways, affecting not only…