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Original Investigation
February 6, 2020

Association of Multisensory Impairment With Quality of Life and Depression in English Older Adults

Author Affiliations
  • 1Department of Public Health Sciences, Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm, Sweden
  • 2Department of Behavioural Science and Health, University College London, London, United Kingdom
  • 3Epidemiology and Public Health Program, Hospital del Mar Medical Research Institute, Barcelona, Spain
JAMA Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg. Published online February 6, 2020. doi:10.1001/jamaoto.2019.4470
Key Points

Question  Are impairments in multiple senses associated with quality of life and depression?

Findings  In this cross-sectional study of a representative sample of 6147 English adults 52 years and older, reporting a greater number of sensory impairments was strongly and linearly associated with lower quality of life and increased risk of depressive symptoms. The associations were mainly driven by impairment in hearing, vision, and taste but not smell, and they tended to be stronger in individuals younger than 65 years compared with older individuals.

Meaning  Preventing sensory impairments may reduce the risks of poor well-being, potentially increasing the chances of independent living.


Importance  Sensory acuity tends to decrease with age, but little is known about the relationship between having multiple sensory impairments and well-being in later life.

Objective  To examine associations between concurrent multisensory impairments and aspects of well-being and mental health, namely quality of life and depressive symptoms.

Design, Setting, and Participants  Cross-sectional analysis of participants in the English Longitudinal Study of Aging wave 8 (May 2016 to June 2017). This is a representative sample of free-living English individuals 52 years and older. Analysis began April 2018.

Main Outcomes and Measures  Linear and logistic regression models were used to assess the association of self-reported concurrent impairments in hearing, vision, smell, and taste with quality of life (0-57 on the 19-item CASP-19 scale; Control, Autonomy, Self-realization and Pleasure) and depressive symptoms (≥4 items on the 8-item Centre for Epidemiologic Study Depression Scale).

Results  Using a representative sample of 6147 individuals, 52% (weighted) were women (n = 3455; unweighted, 56%) and the mean (95% CI) age was 66.6 (66.2-67.0) years. Multiple sensory impairments were associated with poorer quality of life and greater odds of depressive symptoms after adjustment for sociodemographic characteristics, lifestyle factors, chronic conditions, and cognitive function. Compared with no sensory impairment, quality of life decreased linearly as the number of senses impaired increased, with individuals reporting 3 to 4 sensory impairments displaying the poorest quality of life (−4.68; 95% CI, −6.13 to −3.23 points on the CASP-19 scale). Similarly, odds of depressive symptoms increased linearly as the number of impairments increased. Individuals with 3 to 4 senses impaired had more than a 3-fold risk of depressive symptoms (odds ratio, 3.36; 95% CI, 2.28-4.96).

Conclusions and Relevance  In this cross-sectional study, concurrent sensory impairments were associated with poorer quality of life and increased risks of depressive symptoms. Therefore, assessing and managing sensory impairments could help improve older adults’ well-being.

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