NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - Visual impairment alone does not significantly increase the risk of suicide, but it does seem to do so when it is associated with poor health, according to a report in the Archives of Ophthalmology.
The findings suggest that better treatments for the underlying conditions that cause visual impairment, along with factors linked with poor self-ratings of health and health conditions may reduce the risk of suicide, Dr. Byron L. Lam, from the Bascom Palmer Eye Institute in Miami, and colleagues conclude.
The findings stem from an analysis of data for 137,479 adults who participated in surveys conducted by the National Center for Health Statistics between 1986 and 1996. Data from these surveys were then linked to mortality data from the National Death Index.
During an average follow-up period of 11.0 years, 200 suicide deaths were recorded, the report indicates.
After accounting for the possible influence of various demographic factors, the number of health conditions unrelated to vision, self-rated health, visual impairment was linked with a 50 percent increased risk of death by suicide, although the association was not statistically significant, meaning the association could possibly have been the result of chance.
By contrast, the association of suicide with poorer self-rated health, n increased number of health conditions unrelated to the eye, and visual impairment did have an indirect, significant relationship with increased suicide risk.
These results suggest that older adults, those with health conditions that don't involve the eye, and those with self-rated poor health and visual impairment are at increased risk of suicide. Eye care professionals should be aware of the potential increased risk of suicide for patients with visual impairment, especially those in poor health, and provide appropriate referrals for these patients," the authors emphasize.
SOURCE: Archives of Ophthalmology, July 2008.