An anonymous telephone survey was conducted from January to May 2017 in an age-stratified sample of adults with VI who were members of the Norwegian Association of the Blind and Partially Sighted. Participants were asked questions about social isolation, perceived social support, and past experiences with bullying and abuse. Depressive symptoms were measured by the nine-item Patient Health Questionnaire (PHQ-9). We calculated unadjusted and full-adjusted exponentiated beta-values (Exp(β)) and corresponding 95% confidence intervals (CIs) using generalized linear models.
Overall, 736 (61%) adults participated in the study. The mean depression scores were 5.24 (SD: 5.3, range: 0–27), 4.61 for men and 5.77 for women. Results from the full-adjusted model showed higher levels of depressive symptoms among participants who reported social isolation (Exp(β): 1.89, 95% CI: 1.63–2.20), lower levels of perceived social support (Exp(β): 1.55, 95% CI: 1.31–1.83), and past experiences of abuse (Exp(β): 1.41, 95% CI: 1.17–1.70). The strength of the associations between past exposure to bullying or abuse and depressive symptoms was similar for those with low and high levels of support.
Social isolation, perceived support and experiences of adverse events appear to be independently associated with depressive symptoms. Thus, social integration may be appropriate for the promotion of mental health among people with VI.