Scientists say older Americans who live in warmer climates are more likely to face substantial eye impairment than those who do not.
It's common to see changes in vision as one becomes older. However, significant visual impairment is another story. According to recent research involving 1.7 million people, there were significantly increased probabilities of blindness or difficulty seeing even with glasses for those who lived in areas with typical temperatures of 60 degrees Fahrenheit or above.
The study included data from six rounds of the American Community Survey of adults aged 65 and older. "Is this person blind or does he or she have serious difficulty seeing even with glasses?" was the query regarding visual impairment.
Co-author Esme Fuller-Thomson says the "link between vision impairment and average county temperature is very worrying if future research determines that the association is causal."
She continues that they anticipate increased global temperatures due to climate change.
The results say those who lived in counties with an average temperature between 50 and 54.99 degrees had a 14% greater chance of having significant visual impairment than people who resided in counties with an average temperature under 50 degrees. People who lived in areas with an average temperature of 55 to 59.9 degrees were at a 24% greater risk.
The chances of visual loss were 44% greater for people who were in considerably warmer environments. Despite considering age, sex, and financial disparities, the difference still remained. Researchers did discover a higher risk among men and women, as well as those aged 80 and up, compared to individuals between 65 and 79.
"It was powerful to see that the link between vision impairment and temperature was consistent across so many demographic factors, including income," shares co-author Elysia Fuller-Thomson.
The results were also more vital for white individuals compared to Black people. Although there is no exact reasoning behind this yet, scientists say potential explanations include elevated UV light exposure, air pollution, infections, and folic acid breakdown with rising temperatures.
The researchers used average temperature data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, combining it with data from the American Community Survey.
"Serious vision impairment, for example, can increase the risk of falls, fractures, and negatively impact older adults' quality of life," says co-author ZhiDi Deng.
Taking care of vision impairments and their consequences also costs the U.S. economy tens of billions each year. So, this link between temperature and vision impairment was quite concerning.- ZhiDi Deng
The numbers are problematic since, as the authors stated, visual issues significantly contribute to functional restrictions, impairments, falls, and a lower quality of life.
The team concludes: "But this novel finding introduces more questions than it answers, including what the connection between average county temperature and vision impairment is. Moving forward, we plan to investigate whether county temperature is also associated with other disabilities among older adults such as hearing problems and limitations in daily activities."
Regularly getting eye examination is crucial to ensure healthy vision. Early detection and treatment of any issues can aid in maintaining eyesight and preventing vision loss.
- Ophthalmic Epidemiology. Association Between Area Temperature and Severe Vision Impairment in a Nationally Representative Sample of Older Americans
- National Institute on Aging. Aging and Your Eyes.
- CDC. Keep an Eye on Your Vision Health.