New study casts light on mental toll of poor eyesight


A comprehensive new survey by Optegra reveals the extent to which people’s mental wellbeing can be affected by poor vision

A new study conducted by the specialist eye hospital group Optegra has cast light on the mental toll of poor eyesight. The research, which involved surveying over 2,000 British adults, revealed that due to poor vision:

  • 60% feel frustrated
  • 56% feel less confident socially
  • 55% feel in a low mood if they cannot see clearly
  • 54% feel anxiety caused by poor vision
  • 49% feel they are a burden on others at least some, if not all, of the time
  • 36% feel depressed sometimes, regularly or all the time

Poor vision also restricts activities that can boost wellbeing. One in five respondents said they cannot drive due to vision, which makes them feel less independent, almost a quarter reported that they have had to stop a favourite activity or hobby, and a similar proportion said they find everyday tasks like cooking and shopping difficult due to poor sight.

The mental effects of poor vision seem to be particularly acute among younger adults, aged 25-34 years. From that cohort, 43% said they feel low if they can’t see clearly, 30% said they feel socially isolated and 27% said they feel stressed regularly or all of the time. Over a third of respondents in that age group said that poor vision negatively impacts their mental health and 38 per cent stated that poor vision knocks their confidence.

For 25-year-old Alina Ahmed, who has relied on glasses since the age of five poor eyesight has had a huge impact on both mental health and lifestyle. She says: “The glasses correct my short-sighted vision but they also serve another purpose, they align my eyes which have become lazy due to weak muscles. Without my glasses I have double vision. I was totally reliant on them to see, which made me feel vulnerable and frustrated. Without them I am very limited in what I can do.”

Responding to these findings, Optegra consultant ophthalmic surgeon Mr Alex Shortt says: “We often think of the practical implications or poor vision, such as how it affects reading, watching television, driving, cooking and so on, which are very much flagged in this report; but it is also interesting to see how much both mental health and wellbeing are affected.

“Across all age groups, poor vision is having a damaging effect on wellbeing, and it is interesting that the 25-34 year old age group in particular is affected. This could be due to factors such as eyesight problems limiting the ability to live a full social life, holding people back in their careers and preventing them from enjoying quality of life such as being able to go swimming on holiday or play sports. Life is so busy and pressurised nowadays that the burden of poor vision on top of the day-to-day pressures is a real issue.”

The good news is that there are a range of excellent vision correction options available. Alina has recently had SMILE laser eye surgery with Optegra, which has transformed both her physical and mental outlook. She explains: “Previously, it felt that my prescription was so strong that treatment was a closed door. This procedure has made all the difference. I’ve just started a new job as a call support worker at Bradford Royal Infirmary and my new, clear vision has given me the confidence to walk in with my head held high.”