Suicide risk in visually impaired

July 28, 2008

Visual impairment is associated with an increased risk of suicide, according to results of a study published in the July 2008 issue of the Archives of Ophthalmology.

Visual impairment is associated with an increased risk of suicide, according to results of a study published in the July 2008 issue of the Archives of Ophthalmology.

Byron L. Lam, MD of the Bascom Palmer Eye Institute, Miami, US and colleagues performed structural equation modeling on data collected by the National Center for Health Statistics between 1986 and 1996 that had been correlated with information taken from the National Death Index up to 2002 to evaluate the relationship between poor reported visual function and suicide mortality.

During the mean follow-up period of 11 years, 200 suicide deaths were identified. The researchers controlled for various factors, including age, sex and race, and approximated that, indirectly, visual impairment increased the likelihood of suicide mortality due to (self-rated) overall poor health by a hazard ratio of 1.05 and due to non-ocular health impairments by 1.12; the direct impact of poor visual function increased the likelihood of suicide by 1.50. Across the board, the total risk of suicide due to poor visual function increased by 1.64.

The researchers concluded that poor visual function increases the risk of suicide, although not significantly. They suggested that the rate of vision-related suicide could be decreased through better treatment of visual impairment as an holistic health issue.