Female sex, low income status, and having no health insurance are likely to lead to vision concerns among US adolescents, according to a study published in the American Journal of Ophthalmology. These adolescents are also more likely to have uncorrected or undercorrected refractive errors and report poor recent mental health, according to the report.
Researchers included 3100 adolescents (mean age, 15.5 years; 49% girls) in a cross-sectional investigation to examine the prevalence of vision concerns and explore associations between time spent worrying about eyesight and poor physical and mental health. Study participants underwent National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) and visual function questionnaire assessments and ophthalmic examination.
Overall, 24% (n=865) of the survey respondents expressed vision concerns, which were more prevalent among girls compared with boys (29% vs. 19%; P <.001), individuals of low-income status compared with those of above the poverty line (30% vs. 23%; P <.001), and study participants who were uninsured compared with those who had private insuranc (31% vs. 22%; P =.006).
Adolescents who worried about their eyesight were more likely to have undercorrected refractive error (odds ratio [OR], 2.07; 95% CI, 1.43-2.98) and poor mental health (OR, 1.30; 95% CI, 1.01-1.67). No associations were noted between vision concerns and physical health (OR, 1.00; 95% CI, 0.69-1.45), according to the report.
“This study highlights the need for a greater understanding of the relationship between vision concerns and mental health in adolescents,” according to the study authors. “The ability of improved access to refractive correction to reduce the amount of time adolescents spend worrying about their vision and the potential impact of such interventions on mental well-being, especially among children from low-income households, deserves further investigation.”
Study limitations include a cross-sectional design and the use of self-reported data for determining mental health.
Teebagy S, Jastrzembski B, Oke I. The association of vision concerns with the physical and mental well-being of adolescents in the United States. Am J Ophthalmol. Published online June 8, 2023. doi:10.1016/j.ajo.2023.05.018