Comorbid visual and cognitive impairment: relationship with disability status and self-rated health among older Singaporeans.

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The objective of this study was to examine the prevalence and consequences of coexisting vision and cognitive impairments in an Asian population. Data were collected from 4508 community-dwelling Singaporeans aged 60 years and older. Cognition was assessed by the Short Portable Mental Status Questionnaire whereas vision, disability, and self-rated health (SRH) were determined by self-report. Vision impairment was present in 902 (18.5%) participants and cognitive impairment in 835 (13.6%), with 232 (3.5%) participants experiencing both impairments. Persons with the comorbidity experienced higher odds of disability than persons with either single impairment. The association of vision impairment with SRH was stronger among women (odds ratio [OR] = 6.79, 95% confidence interval [CI] = 4.64-9.92) than among men (OR = 1.71, 95% CI = 1.21-2.41). Concurrent cognitive and vision impairment is prevalent in older Singaporeans and is associated with high rates of disability. Gender differences in vision-dependent roles may affect the patient-perceived impact of this comorbidity.





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Whitson, Heather E, Rahul Malhotra, Angelique Chan, David B Matchar and Truls Østbye (2014). Comorbid visual and cognitive impairment: relationship with disability status and self-rated health among older Singaporeans. Asia-Pacific journal of public health, 26(3). pp. 310–319. 10.1177/1010539512443698 Retrieved from

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Heather Elizabeth Whitson

Professor of Medicine

Dr. Whitson's research is focused on improving care options and resilience for people with multiple chronic conditions.  In particular, she has interest and expertise related to the link between age-related changes in the eye and brain (e.g., How does late-life vision loss impact the aging brain or cognitive outcomes?  Is Alzheimer's disease associated with distinctive changes in the retina, and could such changes help diagnose Alzheimer's disease early in its course?).  Dr. Whitson leads a collaborative Alzheimer's Disease initiative that brings together investigators from Duke University and the University of North Carolina (UNC) at Chapel Hill, with a bold vision to transform dementia research and care across Eastern North Carolina. Dr. Whitson is also interested in improving health services to better meet the needs of medically complex patients.  Within the Duke Aging Center, she leads research efforts aimed at promoting resilience to late-life stressors (e.g., surgery, sensory loss, infection).  She has developed a novel rehabilitation model for people with co-existing vision and cognitive deficits, and she is part of a inter-disciplinary team seeking to improve peri-operative outcomes for frail or at-risk seniors who must undergo surgery.  As a co-leader of a national resilience collaborative, she seeks to better understand the biological and psychological factors that determine how well we "bounce back" after health stressors.  

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