A young girl and Vision Ambassador for Orbis REACH project stands outside in front of a tree in Chennai, India.

Press Release: Mental Health Study Finds Children with Vision Impairment Have Reduced Quality of Life

New research from eye care nonprofit Orbis International analyzes the overall wellbeing of children with common childhood vision problems.

NEW YORK, Sept. 13, 2023 - A new study by eye care nonprofit Orbis International found that children with myopia (nearsightedness) and strabismus (misalignment of the eyes) experienced significantly reduced quality of life compared to those without vision impairment. Published in the peer-reviewed journal Ophthalmology, the study also finds that surgical treatment of strabismus improves quality of life among children, underscoring the importance of early detection, treatment, and health insurance coverage of strabismus for children. Made possible with financial support from vision company Santen, the study is the first systematic review and meta-analysis of the links between quality of life in children and vision impairment, ocular morbidities, and their treatment.

A young female school student from India smiles as she tries on a new pair of glasses

A child smiles when trying on eyeglasses for the first time at an Orbis Green Vision Center in Satara, Maharashtra, India.

Quality of life and mental health are increasingly being recognized as important global health concerns. With an estimated 70 million children experiencing vision impairment around the world, understanding the impact of these conditions on mental health is critical. Traditionally, a child's vision function is assessed by clarity or sharpness of their vision. However, this approach does not measure a child's perception of their own visual impairment and ability to successfully complete daily tasks. For example, chronic eye conditions that may not affect central vision but have other negative impacts, like strabismus, have been shown to cause physical, educational and socioemotional difficulties in their daily lives.

This study is a companion piece to a study published last year by Orbis, also in Ophthalmology, that found children with myopia and strabismus were diagnosed with higher rates of depression and anxiety than children without vision impairment.

"Our papers in Ophthalmology furnish the strongest evidence yet that impaired vision in children is associated with mental health problems, such as depression and anxiety," says Prof. Nathan Congdon, Director of Research at Orbis International. "This latest study provides an even broader picture of a child's mental health, including quality of life, wellbeing, and self-esteem, meaning we now have a complete story about how a lack of vision care can cause mental health problems for a child."

The combined findings from these two Orbis studies have driven the organization to find a proven solution for improving children's quality of life by improving their vision. To this end, Orbis is soon to kick off a randomized control trial, named See Well to Stay in ScHool (SWISH), that will provide free eyeglasses for children in China, home to half of all children in the world with vision loss due to not having glasses. SWISH will test for the first time whether providing a simple pair of glasses offers an easy pathway to enhanced mental health and well-being for the millions of children around the world suffering from uncorrected refractive error. The results of this study will have major implications for government health care plans and insurance policies to include early access to eye care for children to improve mental health.

About Orbis International

Orbis is a leading global non-governmental organization that has been a pioneer in the prevention and treatment of avoidable blindness and vision loss for over four decades. Orbis transforms lives by delivering the skills, resources and knowledge needed to deliver accessible quality eye care. Working in collaboration with local partners, including hospitals, universities, government agencies and ministries of health, Orbis provides hands-on ophthalmology training, strengthens healthcare infrastructure and advocates for the prioritization of eye health on public health agendas. Orbis operates the world's only Flying Eye Hospital, a fully accredited ophthalmic teaching hospital on board an MD-10 aircraft, and an award-winning telemedicine platform, Cybersight. For the past ten consecutive years, Orbis has achieved Charity Navigator's coveted four-star rating for demonstrating strong financial health and commitment to accountability and transparency, placing Orbis in the top 3% of U.S. charities. In 2021, Orbis earned GuideStar's platinum Seal of Transparency. To learn more, please visit orbis.org. In 2022, Orbis earned "accredited charity" status from the Better Business Bureau by meeting all 20 of their standards for charity accountability. To learn more, please visit orbis.org.

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