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Higher Suicide Rates Among the Visually Impaired, Study Finds

Daniel Kim Views  

A recent Korean study revealed a higher suicide risk among visually impaired patients compared to the general population. (Photo: Getty Images Bank)

A recent study has revealed that individuals with visual impairments are at a higher risk of suicide compared to those without such impairments.

Professor Kim Young Kook’s team at Seoul National University Hospital announced on the 25th that they conducted a meta-analysis, consolidating the results of 30 cohort studies on the association between visual impairment and suicide risk published before February 2024.

Visual impairment refers to a disability in vision or visual function that cannot be improved by medical or optical methods, due to congenital abnormalities or acquired eye diseases. Previous studies, both Korean and foreign, have reported that the severity of visual impairment is directly proportional to the frequency of suicidal thoughts as well as the risk of actual suicide attempts.

However, the scale and consistency of the previously published studies suggesting a correlation between visual impairment and increased suicide risk varied, making it difficult to assess the associated risk accurately. Moreover, there has been no research in Korea that has quantified the risk of suicide through a meta-analysis, integrating these study results.

In response, the research team secured a sample of 3,743,668 people by combining the results of 30 cohort studies published in international academic journals before February 2024, found through literature searches in major medical databases such as PubMed, EMBASE, and Scopus. They then conducted a meta-analysis to compare the potential impact of visual impairment on suicide risk. The term suicide risk refers to suicidal behavior, which includes suicide attempts and suicide deaths.

The study found that patients with visual impairments had a suicide risk approximately 2.5 times higher (relative risk 2.49, 95% confidence interval 1.71-3.63) than those without such impairments.

In particular, the analysis by age group showed that the suicide risk of adolescents with visual impairments was about ten times higher (relative risk 9.85, 95% confidence interval 4.39-22.10), the highest among all groups. The research team explained that this could mean that adolescents with visual impairments may experience more intense feelings of anxiety, tension, and distress during adolescence, a period of physiological and psychological changes, as well as the acquisition of new skills and the establishment of social networks.

Next, the suicide risk of the elderly aged 65 and over was approximately 6.7 times higher (relative risk 6.66, 95% confidence interval 2.95-15.00).

Ophthalmologist Professor Kim Young Kook said, “This study confirms that visual impairment has a significant psychological impact on patients.” He emphasized, “It is important for ophthalmologists to responsibly gauge the stress level in patients with low vision, especially in adolescents.”

He added, “In high-risk patients, it is necessary to refer them to psychiatric specialists or social welfare experts. Additionally, the active interest of family and acquaintances is also important.”

The results of this study were published in the latest issue of the JAMA Network Open, a journal of the American Medical Association.

Daniel Kim
content@viewusglobal.com

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