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Blind people in hospital more often and for longer

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Curtin University researchers have found legally blind people attend and stay in hospital more than twice as long as the general population, most without having their blind status recorded on their hospital charts.

Curtin Research Fellow, Ms Julie Crewe from the Centre for Population Health Research, said it is widely acknowledged that blindness is one of the most severe disabilities.

“We know that blindness greatly decreases personal independence and mobility and this can often lead to depression and social isolation, adversely impacting quality of life and making people more susceptible to injury,” Ms Crewe said.

“Blindness is a condition normally associated with an older aged group, however there is little information on the health and wellbeing of people of working age who are legally blind.”

“Our study sought to determine whether blindness in people aged 18-65 years was associated with increased death rates, hospitalisation and length of stay.”

“The study identified significant issues among a large group of legally blind people under the age of 65, taken from the State register of people with vision impairments.”

“We reviewed hospitalisation rates over 11 years for 419 participants and found that the death rate for people who were blind was seven times higher than normal sighted people of the same age.”

“We also found only 22 per cent of people who were blind had their blindness recorded on their hospital charts. This is really significant because recognition and acknowledgement of in-patients’ blind status may assist in understanding why they use health services more often and for extended periods.”

This research suggests that encouraging and promoting the uptake of and access to rehabilitation support services may reduce the health service burden of blindness, the incidence of depression and other mental health problems in people who are blind.

Download the paper titled ‘Mortality and hospital morbidity of working-age blind’ from the British Journal of Ophthalmology.

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