Home and Community Care Digest, 7(1) March 2008

My Vision Impairment is Hurting People I Love

Abstract

This study, which assessed the five-year impact of visual impairment on the health and well-being of the partner of a visually impaired person, found both gender differences and negative impacts. Depression, physical functioning, well-being, social involvement, and marital quality of the partners of visually impaired individuals were all affected. Therefore, consideration must be given to the needs of partners when planning the care and services of the visually impaired. The negative impact on the partners may create an unintentional demand for healthcare services, adding close family members as new patients and leading to an increase of burden on the health system. Background: A number of existing researchers have concentrated on the negative impact of a person's own visual impairment; but very few have examined the extent to which a person's own visual deficits affect the health and well-being of his/her partner. This study aimed to assess the impact of visual impairment experienced by an individual on the health and well-being of his/her partner over a 5-year period and to examine if there were gender differences in these experiences.

Methods: Data were collected in 1994 and 1999 as a part of a bigger study that followed adults for several years in the United States. A total of 418 couples were interviewed with regards to the extent that vision impairment influenced their own and their partners' health and well-being. Vision impairment was selfassessed in 1994 by reporting how much difficulty they had seeing, even with glasses, in different everyday situations. Higher scores indicated greater vision impairment. To assess the impact of vision impairment on the health and well-being of older couples, a range of outcomes was chosen, including physical functioning, mental health, social involvement, well-being, and marital quality. These outcome measures were collected in 1999.

Findings: A person's vision impairment was found to negatively impact the physical functioning, mental health, well-being, marital quality of his/her partner, even when the impact of the partner's own visual impairments was taken into account. The negative impact of visual impairment affected the person's own health and well-being as much as his/her partners. Furthermore, negative impacts of husbands' vision impairment on wives were stronger than that of wives' on husbands in the measures of social involvement and marital quality.

Conclusions: These findings found both gender differences and negative impacts on the health and wellbeing of the partner of a visually impaired person. The study supported the concept that spouses do not live in isolation and health issues of one person can impact the other. Influences of husbands on wives appeared to be stronger than influences of wives on husbands. Therefore, consideration must be given to the needs of partners when planning the care and services of the visually impaired. The negative impact on partners may create an unintentional demand for healthcare services, adding close family members as new patients and leading to an increase of burden on the health system.

Reference: Strawbridge WJ, Wallhagen MI, Shema SJ. Impact of Spouse Vision Impairment on Partner Health and Well-being: A Longitudinal Analysis of Couples. The Journals of Gerontology. 2007; 62B(5): S315-S322.

 


Comments

MiMi LLLLL wrote:

Posted 2010/02/09 at 03:49 PM EST

My son who is now 33 years old was born with eye problems....had squint eyes and 2 surgeries when he was a baby.....he has no vision in one eye and the good eye is now damaged also....I always thought when he was little that his behavior was affected by the eyesight....but never persued this since he was a very smart little boy....around 14 years old he changed a lot...and became what I felt was bi polar....he has had problems off and on for years now....I often still wonder if the eye problems did not affect this.....now I am reading all kinds of things which no doubt have been connected....interesting that all of this has now come to light....

 

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