Changes in Visual Function in the Elderly Population in the United States: 1995-2010.

Journal Article (Journal Article)


To document recent trends in visual function among the United States population aged 70+ years and investigate how the trends can be explained by inter-temporal changes in: (1) population sociodemographic characteristics, and chronic disease prevalence, including eye diseases (compositional changes); and (2) effects of the above factors on visual function (structural changes).


Data from the 1995 Asset and Health Dynamics among the Oldest Old (AHEAD) and the 2010 Health and Retirement Study (HRS) were merged with Medicare Part B claims in the interview years and the 2 previous years. Decomposition analysis was performed. Respondents from both studies were aged 70+ years. The outcome measure was respondent self-reported visual function on a 6-point scale (from 6 = blind to 1 = excellent).


Overall, visual function improved from slightly worse than good (3.14) in 1995 to slightly better than good (2.98) in 2010. A decline in adverse effects of aging on vision was found. Among the compositional changes were higher educational attainment leading to improved vision, and higher prevalence of such diseases as diabetes mellitus, which tended to lower visual function. However, compared to compositional changes, structural changes were far more important, including decreased adverse effects of aging, diabetes mellitus (when not controlling for eye diseases), and diagnosed glaucoma.


Although the US population has aged and is expected to age further, visual function improved among elderly persons, especially among persons 80+ years, likely reflecting a favorable role of structural changes identified in this study in mitigating the adverse effect of ongoing aging on vision.

Full Text

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • Chen, Y; Hahn, P; Sloan, FA

Published Date

  • June 2016

Published In

Volume / Issue

  • 23 / 3

Start / End Page

  • 137 - 144

PubMed ID

  • 27142717

Pubmed Central ID

  • PMC4959606

Electronic International Standard Serial Number (EISSN)

  • 1744-5086

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

  • 0928-6586

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.3109/09286586.2015.1057603


  • eng