Patients With Visual Impairment Report Poor Overall Health

A blind girl with her husky guide dog, sitting on the chair, indoors
A blind girl with her husky guide dog, sitting on the chair, indoors.
An analysis of CDC data reveals that poor perception of overall health correlates with visual impairment.

The visually impaired population experiences a greater number of physically unhealthy days compared to those who are not visually impaired, according to a study published in Optometry and Vision Science.

Researchers conducted a study to assess the association between vision impairment and health-related quality of life. The study employed data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s 2017 Behavior Risk Factor Surveillance System. The data, which were extracted from each of the 50 states, involved self-reporting of visual difficulties, and self-reporting of physically unhealthy days in the previous 30 days in patients with and without visual impairments. The researchers calculated the number of unhealthy days for each group in each state, subsequently determining the ratio of physically unhealthy days.

The study found the mean numbers of physically unhealthy days among persons with and without severe vision impairment across all states to be 10.63 and 3.68, respectively. In the visually impaired group vs the non-visually impaired group, mean ratios of physically unhealthy days were 2.91 in the 18- to 39-year-old cohort, 2.87 in the 40- to 64-year-old cohort, and 2.16 in participants 65 years or older.

The researchers explain that the measure of physically unhealthy days is a way to characterize the overall health of the population with severe vision impairment, since vision impairment itself does not normally cause physical pain. Thus, they posit, this demonstrates the considerable level of health care needs in the visually impaired community. The study also demonstrated geographic variability. The mean ratio of physically unhealthy days in adults with severe vision impairment ranged from 2.14 in South Dakota to 3.89 in Maryland (out of the prior 30 days).

 “Identifying these important health linkages provides evidence that supports the incorporation of vision care into multidisciplinary approaches to chronic disease management,” the study notes.

The researchers also explain that the estimate of overall national vision impairment prevalence that was found, 4.70%, is within the range of other, similar studies. 

Study limitations include possible confounding due to its self-reporting format, with respect to accuracy and the reasoning for the participants’ assessment of their physical health. Additionally, the researchers were unable to determine a temporal association between compromised physical health and severe vision impairment.


VanNasdale D, Jones-Jordan L, Hurley M, Shelton E, Robich M, Crews J. Association between vision impairment and physical quality of life assessed using national surveillance data. Opt Vis Sci. 2021;98(9):1063-1069. doi:10.1097/OPX.0000000000001773