The associations between self-rated vision and hearing and functional status in middle age

by Paul Lee, James P. Smith, Raynard Kington


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The study describes associations between self-reported visual and hearing impairment and an index of global functional status among community-dwelling, middle-aged Americans. A total of 9,744 U.S. community-dwelling persons 51 to 61 years of age participated. Multivariate analyses of functional status based on cross-sectional data from Wave I (1992) of the Health and Retirement Study (HRS) were performed. A global index of functional status based on self-reported limitations in 17 activities was measured. Approximately 3% of respondents rated their vision or hearing as poor. Even after controlling for demographic factors, socioeconomic status, medical conditions, and general health status, limitations in both vision and hearing were independently correlated with worse functional status. The magnitude of effect of poor vision exceeded all medical conditions except stroke. The study concludes that visual and hearing impairment appear to have a significant relationship with overall functional status, among even community-dwelling, middle-aged Americans and even after controlling for general health status, medical comorbidities, and socioeconomic status.

Originally published in: Ophthalmology, v. 106, no. 2, February 1999, pp. 401-405.

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