Mental Health

Shahina Pardhan, PhD, on Dual Sensory Impairment Increases Depression, Anxiety Risk

Shahina Pardhan, PhD
Shahina Pardhan, PhD

Dual sensory impairment is associated with increased depression and anxiety, with women showing stronger associations than men, according to a study published online in the International Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry. To reduce anxiety and depression, interventions are needed to address vision and hearing impairment, especially in women, authors wrote in the study.

In this Q&A, lead author Shahina Pardhan, PhD, Director of the Vision and Eye Research Institute at Anglia Ruskin University’s School of Medicine, Chelmsford, United Kingdom, discusses what led her and her colleagues to investigate dual sensory impairment associations, the study method and findings, and practical applications for clinicians.

Q: What led you and your colleagues to investigate gender-specific associations of vision, hearing, and dual sensory impairment with depression and chronic anxiety?

A: Depression and anxiety are among the most prevalent mental health problems globally. The global prevalence of people with vision and hearing impairments is quite high. Globally in 2013, it was estimated that approximately 1.3 billion people had some form of hearing impairment and 774 million people had vision impairment. Although a higher prevalence of depression and anxiety in people with vision and hearing losses individually has been reported in the literature, no study has compared depression and anxiety in men and women who have both vision and hearing difficulties.

Q: Please briefly describe the study method and participants.

A: We used data from the Spanish National Health Survey from 2017. A total of 23,089 adults (age range: 15–103 years) participated in this survey, allowing for a representative sample of the adult Spanish population. A computer-assisted personal interviewing method was used for the data collection.

Participants who answered affirmatively to the question “Do you have difficulty seeing?” were considered to have vision impairment if they responded “some difficulty/much difficulty.” Those who answered affirmatively to the question “Do you have difficulty hearing what is being said in a conversation with another person in a quiet place?” with “some difficulty/much difficulty/deaf” were included in the “hearing impairment” group.

Q: Please briefly describe the most significant finding(s).

A: In the group as a whole, the prevalence of depression in those with “no vision or hearing impairment” was 7.8% compared to 20.4 % in those with vision impairment, and 17.4% in those with hearing impairment. In those with vision impairment, 26.2% of women reported depression compared to 11.5% of men. In the group with hearing impairment, it was 24.2% (women) versus 10.5% (men). However, in the group who reported both vision and hearing impairment, 35.1% of women reported suffering from depression compared to 17.1% of men.

Q: Were any outcomes different than you expected?

A: We were not sure what we would find, which is why we conducted the research.

Q: Are there any practical applications of your findings for clinicians in the field?

A: Yes, absolutely. Addressing any reversible causes of vision and hearing impairment may reduce the risk for depression or anxiety. Eye care, hearing care, and mental health practitioners should be aware of the high risk of depression and anxiety in women with vision and hearing impairments in order to be able to address these in people—especially women—with dual sensory loss.

Q: Are you conducting any more research in this area, and are there any other studies you feel are needed?

A: Yes, we are looking at various other associations that may have an impact on the life of people with vision loss, hearing loss, and also on those who have dual sensory losses, such as the ability to take part in physical activities, which is so important.

Q: Any final thoughts on this research?

A: I hope that this research will alert health care practitioners to be more aware of the higher risk of depression in people, and more importantly, in women who have both hearing and vision losses.


Pardhan S, López Sánchez GF, Bourne R, et al. Visual, hearing, and dual sensory impairment are associated with higher depression and anxiety in women. International Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry. 2021 Mar 10;[Epub ahead of print].

Professor Shahina Pardhan, PhD, is the Director of the Vision and Eye Research Institute (VERI) at the Anglia Ruskin University (ARU) School of Medicine, Chelmsford, United Kingdom. Under her leadership, the Institute has developed into an international research center. The impact from VERI’s research was rated as 100% World Class and Internationally Excellent in REF2014. Dr. Pardhan was appointed as the first female professor of optometry in the United Kingdom in 2001. Her current research areas include diabetic retinopathy, low vision, aging, and visual short-term memory. She has published just under 50 publications within the Research Excellence Framework (REF) 2021 period of 2014-2020. Dr. Pardhan is a recipient of the Asian Jewel Award in the Health Care and Education category, the Asian Women of Achievement Award in the Professions category, and the first Ismaili Award for Excellence in the Postgraduate category.