Prevent Depression

Prevent Depression

Posted on Sep.23, 2014, under Eye Conditions, Eye Health, Guest Blogger, Living With Low Vision, Low Vision Info, Low Vision Tips

When people stop doing the activities they enjoy they are at a higher risk for depression concluded a recent study performed at Thomas Jefferson University.   Retina specialists and geriatric psychiatrists collaborated in the Low Vision Depression Prevention Trial for Age Related Macular Degeneration (VITAL).  They found that patients with age related macular degeneration can prevent depression with the help of occupational and psychological therapy.

The professional journal, Ophthalmology, reports that AMD patients who received occupational therapy, mental health therapy and eye treatments “saw their risk of experiencing the depression that often comes with AMD cut in half.”

One of the key components of the study was to help patients identify activities that they once enjoyed but no longer participated in because of vision loss. Robin Casten, co-author of the VITAL study and associate professor of psychiatry at Jefferson University, states,” Behavior activation involves helping people to focus on activities they enjoy, to recognize that loss of those activities can lead to depression, and to re-engage in those activities.”

There were 188 participants in the VITAL study all of which had AMD in both eyes and eyesight of 20/70 or worse with mild symptoms of depression. The average age was 84 years old with seventy percent of them being women, half of which lived alone.  The subjects were divided into two groups.  One group received the behavioral activation and the other group did not. After only four months the group receiving the behavioral activations were found to be 50% less likely to become depressed.   Another assessment will be performed at 12 months.

Low vision optometrists evaluate the patients’ vision, determine their magnification needs, prescribe optical devices and then provide the occupational therapist(OT) with a care plan.  The occupational therapists then meet with the participants in their homes six times over a 12 week period. During the home visits the OT  assists with how to use the visual aids and magnifiers as well as makes recommendations to modify the home such as improved lighting.

The study team is addressing a need that is rarely addressed. The VITAL study reports that,

“One third of patients with AMD become clinically depressed when they lose the ability to pursue valued activities.  Because their depression is disabling and unlikely to be treated, preventing depression in AMD is a public health imperative as the population ages.”

Just because you can’t be in this study doesn’t mean you can’t benefit from the help of a low vision occupational therapist.  Find out how this specialty can help you re-engage in your valued activities here:

Low Vision Occupational Therapy


Leslie Degner, RN, BSN