June 2020
Volume 61, Issue 7
ARVO Annual Meeting Abstract  |   June 2020
Loneliness in the Visually Impaired
Author Affiliations & Notes
  • Donald C Fletcher
    Ophthalmology, Envision Vision Rehabilitation Center, Wichita, Kansas, United States
    Ophthalmology, Smith Kettlewell Eye Research Institute, San Francisco, California, United States
  • Ronald A Schuchard
    Ophthalmology, Envision Vision Rehabilitation Center, Wichita, Kansas, United States
  • Footnotes
    Commercial Relationships   Donald Fletcher, None; Ronald Schuchard, None
  • Footnotes
    Support  None
Investigative Ophthalmology & Visual Science June 2020, Vol.61, 1571. doi:
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      Donald C Fletcher, Ronald A Schuchard; Loneliness in the Visually Impaired. Invest. Ophthalmol. Vis. Sci. 2020;61(7):1571.

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      © ARVO (1962-2015); The Authors (2016-present)

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Purpose : To examine the extent of loneliness in low vision patients and whether there is an association with pet/human companionship, visual function status and other factors.

Methods : 33 low vision rehab patients were asked the Mary Hughes Three-Item Loneliness Scale (1 to 3 scale for each question; total of > 5 = lonely) and questions about pet/human companionship and general frustration with vision loss. Patients’ characteristics were recorded for age, gender, level of visual acuity (ETDRS at 1 meter) and number of years in rehabilitation services.

Results : The median (range) age was 82 (16-99) years old with 70% female/30% male. The best eye visual acuity median (range) was 20/220 (20/22-20/3000) and every patient had a central visual field deficit. 34% lived alone, 42% with a spouse and 24% with another family member. Frustration scale (1-5) with vision loss was 4.0 (1.5 – 5; mean/range). Loneliness scale scores showed a mean of 5.8 with 55% to not be lonely (<6), 45% to be lonely (>5) and 21% to be very lonely (8-9). 52% of patients had a pet (dog or cat) and 75% of all patients felt that pet ownership was very helpful in reducing loneliness or thought it would be if they had one. VA, age, time in rehab and pet ownership were not predictive of the categories of lonely or not lonely or the self-reported score of loneliness (3-9). The human companionship living condition (spouse compared to family member or no human companion) and self-reported rating of frustration with vision loss were predictive (p<0.05) of both categorical (not lonely-lonely) and self-reported ratings (3-9) of loneliness.

Conclusions : Nearly half of the patients with vision loss in this study are lonely with a mean scale score of 5.8 which is considerably higher than a similar age matched normally sighted population mean of 3.9. Spousal relationships and levels of frustration with vision loss appear to impact the condition of loneliness. Dog or cat ownership is perceived as beneficial in dealing with loneliness. Further research needs to be done to explore whether this loneliness also leads to mental health conditions like depression.

This is a 2020 ARVO Annual Meeting abstract.


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