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B. E. Munoz, K. A. Turano, C. A. Munro, S. E. Hassan, L. Keay, K. J. Bandeen Roche, E. W. Gower, S. K. West; The Effect of Recent and Chronic Stress on Visual Function and Visual Attention. The SEEDS Study. Invest. Ophthalmol. Vis. Sci. 2009;50(13):2497.
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Stress, due to life events, is a significant issue for older persons. It is known to affect cognitive performance, but it is unclear how it affects visual function and visual attention. The study aim was to examine the effect of recent and chronic stress on visual function and visual attention in a cohort of older drivers
The Perceived Stress Scale (PSS; Cohen et al,1983) was administered to 1060 older drivers at two study visits one year apart. Depressive symptoms, cognitive function, visual acuity, contrast sensitivity, visual fields, and visual attention were assessed at the second visit using standard protocols. Recent stress was defined as the level of perceived stress at the second visit only, and chronic stress as the average level of the two visits. Gender- specific regression models were used to assess the effect of stress on visual function and visual attention outcomes after adjusting for depressive symptoms and cognitive status.
On a scale of 0-4, 4 representing the highest level of stress, the average stress score was higher for women than for men (0.91 vs. 0.75, p<0.001). No significant effect of recent or chronic stress on visual acuity, contrast sensitivity, or visual field was found. However, there was a differential effect of chronic stress on visual attention by gender. For women, a threshold effect was found such that chronic stress was associated with a larger visual attentional field (2.9° per stress unit, p=0.008)up to a threshold of 0.75, but declined above that level (-3.7° per unit p=0.01). Similar trends were found for men although the results were not statistically significant. No significant associations were found with recent stress.
Stress does not significantly affect visual acuity, contrast sensitivity, or visual fields. However, chronic stress appears to affect the size of the visual field over wich women can successfully divide their visual attention.
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