Institute of Epidemiology & Health Care


The Circumstances of Visually Impaired Older People in England

In collaboration with the Institute for Social and Economic Research, University of Essex and the National Centre for Social Research
Funded by The Gift of Thomas Pocklington

Principal researchers:

This study focuses on the demographic profile and social circumstances of older people in England who have a self-assessed visual impairment. Impaired vision affects older people more than any other group of the population. Although it is estimated that there are nearly one million people in the UK who have a sight problem, the lack of complete registration means that this estimate is uncertain. Similarly, there is a lack of data on the demographic profile of those with a visual impairment that includes those who are not on the register, and limited information on their social and economic circumstances - data that are necessary to fully understand the needs of visually impaired people.

It is important not to consider visual impairment in isolation from other impairments. Analysis of ELSA data suggests that those with visual impairments are also more likely to have hearing and cognitive impairments, difficulties with activities of daily living, and other disabilities.

Disability has powerful effects on individual well-being, on the need for informal help and health care, and on long-term care needs and costs. Good information on disability and how this is distributed in the population, is vital for understanding the needs of people with impairments and for informing policy responses to population ageing.

The primary aim of this study is to increase our understanding of the distribution and needs of older people with visual impairments. To address this aim, the study will describe the demography of people with visual impairments; how visual impairment relates to other impairments and disability; and the social and economic circumstances of those with such impairments. This includes an assessment of living arrangements, housing, social participation, income and wealth, disablement and care received, and quality of life. The findings will make a major contribution to our knowledge of the circumstances and needs of older people with a visual impairment, something that is important for informed policy development.

The study will be based on analysis of data from the first wave of the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing (ELSA), a study of the health, social and economic circumstances of a representative sample of people aged 50 and over living in the community.