GPs safeguard vision impaired Australians from depression


Referring vision impaired patients to a GP for treatment significantly decreases their symptoms of depression, a study by the Centre for Eye Research Australia (CERA) has found.

The study, funded by a beyondblue Victorian Centre of Excellence in Depression and Anxiety grant, found adults with vision impairment commonly experience depression, however it often remains undetected and untreated.  The negative impact of vision loss on mental health and quality of life can also be profound, and there is stigma around seeking help for depression.

The study found that 46 per cent of vision impaired adults met with a GP after a referral from their low vision rehabilitation service.

These GPs were considered to be active in the management of their patients’ depressive symptoms with antidepressant medication the most commonly prescribed treatment.

Half of the study participants reported that their GP recommended they see a psychologist, but the uptake was low, mainly due to cost and unease about sharing personal information with a stranger.

Principal Investigator of Behavioural Research in Ophthalmology at CERA, Dr Gwyneth Rees, said the study will help eye specialists to collaborate better with GPs and psychologists during treatment.

“We can clearly see the benefits of encouraging patients to consult with their GP to discuss how they are feeling,” she said.

“The study also identified the need to address the barriers preventing patients visiting psychologists which is an important area for future research.”

Dr Rees added, “Given that depression affects around one-third of adults with vision impairment, further work is needed to determine the most effective strategies to help patients seek the support they need from GPs and psychologists to maintain good mental health.”

beyondblue CEO Georgie Harman said beyondblue advocates early intervention to reduce symptoms of depression before it becomes debilitating. beyondblue hopes the research encourages more GP referrals to assist vision impaired people.

CERA acknowledges and thanks the Victorian Government and beyondblue for funding the research and thanks Vision Australia and the Royal Victorian Eye and Ear Hospital for its support and participation in this project.


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