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Sight is arguably the most important sense in our screen-first digital age. It only follows that vision challenges would have a profound effect on our health beyond the obvious. For example, the link between vision and diabetes has been known for decades, but what about mental health? The latest research shows deep connections.
The connection between vision health and mental health
Sight is a major part of overall well-being
People with vision loss are two to three times more likely to suffer from depression than people with healthy sight. Although computer use has helped workers become more efficient, it can also contribute to making mental health worse. Overall, today’s screen-based work is associated with an increase in anxiety and depression. Understanding this connection can help you plan the workload of your employees accordingly.
The link between vision and mental health works both ways
We know that vision loss often results in depression. What you may not know is that depression can affect our vision. Studies have shown that depressed people perceive contrast and brightness differently than non-depressed people. Therefore, the relationship between vision health and mental health is a two-way street — improving overall conditions can help your employees keep a healthy vision as well.
Emotional well-being and support are crucial to employee health
Because of the complex relationship between vision loss and mental health, people can enter a negative spiral without realizing it. Depressed patients are less likely to follow up with medical treatment or make lifestyle changes that can help slow their vision loss. Without emotional support, it is more difficult to break this cycle. Making these connections known to your employees and offering help will go a long way toward their health and productivity.
The link between vision health and mental health may go far deeper than we realize
New research explores deeper links between eye and brain health. Because the optic nerve connects the eye to the brain, a new imaging technique (OCT) allows doctors of optometry to study conditions that affect the brain. One of these conditions is multiple sclerosis. In the future, OCT may also help diagnose Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s disease.
What employers can do to protect their workforce
Be mindful of workplace vision and mental health
Employers should be aware of the connection between vision health and mental health. Providing access to vision care can help employees diagnose problems early and improve outcomes. Poor mental health negatively affects job performance and productivity. It is also associated with higher rates of disability and unemployment. Destigmatize mental health and be sure employees have support programs for stress management at work. Some examples include meditation or yoga classes — even a ping pong table at the office can go a long way.
Give them tools to manage stress likely caused by eye strain and screens
On average, the American worker at a desk job spends at least seven hours a day looking at a computer screen. Educate employees on techniques that reduce stress and eye strain. Some examples are anti-glare screens and using the contrast adjustment feature on their computers. As an example, eye strain can be helped by taking a 20-second break from computer screens every 20 minutes and looking at something about 20 feet away (the “20-20-20 rule”).
Help find vision problems in your employees early with comprehensive vision tests
Encourage employees to get yearly eye exams to detect vision problems early. The earlier they identify any problem, the better the chance of successful treatment. The best way to be sure your employees get a comprehensive exam with a qualified doctor of optometry is to include it in your vision benefits package.
Vision Care Direct of Oklahoma plans can help protect your employees’ vision to avoid the negative spiral between mental health issues and vision problems. Our pre-paid vision plans minimize out-of-pocket costs and help ensure employees maintain visual health with annual exams by a qualified doctor of optometry.