Topic: Disasters, terror and stress management

Traumatic experiences among blind and visually impaired individuals, coping and mental health.

Generally, visual impressions are the key modality in safety perception, emergency preparedness and the ability to cope with potentially traumatic events (Kosslyn, 1994). For sighted individuals, vision is crucial for the perception of risks, as well as for orientation in emergency situations. Also, visual representations of the trauma are central in the processing of traumatic events (Conway, 2005; Tekcan et al., 2014). Non-visual strategies will under many circumstances not compensate for the ability to see (Cattaneo et al., 2008). Visual impairment may result in increased susceptibility for risks and hazards in daily life. Visual impairment may also be an obstacle to gain necessary and sufficient information in an emergency situation, and to take care of own safety and security. There is a huge gap of knowledge about fears, trauma exposure and psychological reactions after traumatic events among visual impaired individuals. Furthermore, there is a need for research on coping mechanism and what kind of coping that is associated with prevention of posttraumatic stress, social withdrawal, and loss of functioning.

2016 This project has been completed 2017

Project Manager

  • Heir, Trond

    Heir, Trond

    Research Professor/ Professor University of Oslo / dr. scient.

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Project Members

  • Hansen, Marianne Bang
  • Brunes, Audun

Main objective

The aim of the present study is to examine what kind of potential traumatic events is experienced by visually impaired individuals, how reactions to traumatic events is manifested and coped with, and how they deal with potential threats.

Subsidiary objectives

We plan to publish three papers from this study, all in international peer reviewed journals.

  1. Traumatic experiences among blind and visually impaired individuals. Are blind and visually impaired at high risk for being victims of accidents, crimes and violence?
  2. Posttraumatic stress, depression, and social withdrawal among blind and visual impaired individuals. Associations with former experiences and coping strategies.
  3. How blind and visually impaired individuals deal with potential threats. Use of visibility, security measures, and help-seeking.


The study has a cross-sectional design. Participants will be members of the Norwegian association for visually impaired and blind, and the organization will be responsible for contacting potential participants. Of the total 10 000 members of the Norwegian association for visual impaired and blind, a sample of 800 individuals will be randomly selected for participation. Data collection will be done through a telephone interview of each individual participant.

Design of the telephone interview as well as the information to participate, has been done in collaboration with the member organization.

Life Event Checklist (LEC-5). The 17-item questionnaire LEC-5 will be used to explore the number of different kinds of potential traumatic experiences.

Posttraumatic stress checklist (PCL-5). The 20-item questionnaire PCL-5 will be used for measuring the intensity of posttraumatic stress reactions.

The Patient Health Questionnaire (PHQ-9). The PHQ-p is a 9-item self-report inventory to assess depressive disorder.

General Self Efficacy Scale (GSE). The 6-item GSE will be used to measure perceived self-efficacy. The scale consists of 10 statements about mastery

Impact of Vision Impairment Questionnaire (IVI) is a 20-item questionnaire to measure mobility and independence, emotional well-being, and reading and accessing information.

Three item loneliness scale is about different aspects of experienced loneliness and isolation.

Questions about how participants deal with potential threats has been developed in cooperation with user organizations and some of their members, including a workshop in advance of the survey. The same applies to questions about coping with previous traumatic experiences and stress reactions.


Brunes, A., & Heir, T. (2021). Serious life events in people with visual impairment versus the general population. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health (IJERPH), 18(21). doi:10.3390/ijerph182111536

Brunes, A., & Heir, T. (2020). Social interactions, experiences with adverse life events and depressive symptoms in individuals with visual impairment: A cross-sectional study. BMC Psychiatry. doi:10.1186/s12888-020-02652-7

Brunes, A., & Heir, T. (2020). Visual impairment and depression: Age-specific prevalence, associations with vision loss, and relation to life satisfaction. World Journal of Psychiatry (WJP), 10(6), 139-149. doi:10.5498/wjp.v10.i6.139

Brunes, A., Hansen, M. B., & Hansen, M., & Heir, T. (2019). Loneliness among adults with visual impairment: Prevalence, associated factors, and relationship to life satisfaction. Health and Quality of Life Outcomes, 17(1), 1-7. doi:10.1186/s12955-019-1096-y

Brunes, A., Hansen, M., & Heir, T. (2019). Einsamkeit bei Erwachsenen mit Sehbehinderung: Prävalenz, assoziierte Faktoren und Zusammenhang mit der Lebenszufriedenheit. Karger Kompass Ophthalmologie, 5(3), 110-117. doi:10.1159/000502498

Heir, T., Bonsaksen, T., Grimholt, T. K., Ekeberg, Ø., Skogstad, L., Lerdal, A., & Bredal, I. S. (2019). Serious life events and post-traumatic stress disorder in the Norwegian population. BJPsych Open, 5(5), 1-7. doi:10.1192/bjo.2019.62

Brunes, A., & Heir, T. (2018). Sexual assaults in individuals with visual impairment: A cross-sectional study of a Norwegian sample. BMJ Open, 8(6). doi:10.1136/bmjopen-2018-021602

Brunes, A., Hansen, M., & Heir, T. (2018). Post-traumatic stress reactions among individuals with visual impairments: A systematic review. Disability and Rehabilitation, 41(18), 2111-2118. doi:10.1080/09638288.2018.1459884

Brunes, A., Nielsen, M. B., & Heir, T. (2018). Bullying among people with visual impairment. Prevalence, associated factors and relationship to self-efficacy and life satisfaction. World Journal of Psychiatry (WJP), 22(1), 43-50. doi:10.5498/wjp.v8.i1.43