Associations of Eye Diseases and Symptoms with Self-Reported Physical and Mental Health

Published:August 26, 2009DOI:


      To study the associations of eye diseases and visual symptoms with the most widely used health-related quality-of-life (HRQOL) generic profile measure.


      HRQOL was assessed using the short form-36 (SF-36) version 1 survey administered to a sample of patients receiving care provided by a physician group practice association.


      Eye diseases, ocular symptoms, and general health were assessed in a sample of patients from 48 physician groups. A total of 18,480 surveys were mailed out and 7,093 returned; 5,021 of these had complete data. Multiple linear regression models were used to examine the decrements in self-reported physical and mental health associated with eye diseases and symptoms, including trouble seeing and blurred vision.


      Nine percent of the respondents had cataracts, 2% had age-related macular degeneration, 2% glaucoma, 8% blurred vision, and 13% trouble seeing. Trouble seeing and blurred vision both had statistically unique associations with worse scores on the SF-36 mental health summary score. Only trouble seeing had a significant association with the SF-36 physical health summary score. While these ocular symptoms were significantly associated with SF-36 scores, having an eye disease (cataracts, glaucoma, and macular degeneration) was not, after adjusting for other variables in the model.


      Our results suggest an important link between visual symptoms and general HRQOL. The study extends the findings of prior research to show that both trouble seeing and blurred vision have independent, measurable associations with HRQOL, while the presence of specific eye diseases may not.
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      Paul P. Lee, MD, JD, is the James Pitzer Gills III, MD and Joy Gills Professor of Ophthalmology at Duke Medical Center, Vice Chairman at Duke University Eye Center, Senior Fellow in the Duke Center on Aging and Human Development, and in the Duke Center for Clinical Health Policy Research. Dr Lee is a glaucoma specialist, active clinician, surgeon, and teacher in the Department of Ophthalmology as well as a health services researcher.