Health risk profile for older adults with blindness: an application of the International Classification of Functioning, Disability, and Health framework.

PURPOSE:   To develop a health risk profile for adults age 65 years or older with blindness, using the International Classification of Functioning, Disability and Health (ICF) as our conceptual framework.

METHODS:   We combined and analyzed data from the 2000-2006 National Health Interview Survey after backcoding questions to the ICF. We compared older adults with blindness (n = 477) and older adults with vision loss but not blindness (n = 6,721) with older adults who reported no vision loss (n = 33,497) for the following outcome measures: demographics, functional limitations (self-care, social participation, and mobility limitations), level of psychological distress, physical health status, selected chronic conditions and health risk behaviors (smoking, alcohol use, obesity, and physical inactivity).

RESULTS:   Older adults with blindness were more likely to be poorer, older, and less educated than older adults without vision loss. They were also more likely to have fair to poor health; to have difficulty walking; to experience diabetes, heart problems, and breathing problems; and to be physically inactive, compared with older adults reporting vision loss but not blindness and older adults without vision loss.

CONCLUSION:   Older adults with blindness face significant health disparities that can diminish their quality of life without timely, disability-sensitive interventions to address serious psychological distress and physical inactivity.