Hot climate may worsen eyesight for Americans

Hot climate may worsen eyesight for Americans

The Impact of Climate on Vision Impairment in Older Adults


Eye health is a crucial aspect of overall well-being, especially for older adults. Recent research has highlighted the surprising connection between climate and vision impairment in this population. According to a study conducted by researchers at the University of Toronto’s Institute of Life Course and Aging, older American adults living in warmer regions are more likely to experience serious vision impairment compared to those residing in cooler areas. These findings are particularly concerning given the anticipated global rise in temperatures due to climate change.

The Research Study

The study, which analyzed data from 1.7 million individuals, revealed a clear association between average county temperature and vision impairment. The odds of severe vision impairment were found to increase among older adults living in counties with higher average temperatures. Compared to individuals residing in counties with temperatures below 50 degrees Fahrenheit, those in areas with temperatures ranging from 50 to 54.99 degrees Fahrenheit had a 14% higher risk of severe vision impairment. The risk increased to 24% for counties with temperatures between 55 and 59.99 degrees Fahrenheit, and a staggering 44% for those with even warmer climates.

These results held true even after accounting for differences in age, sex, and income levels. It was particularly significant to observe that the association between vision impairment and temperature remained consistent across various demographic factors, including income. Elysia Fuller-Thomson, a graduate student at the University of Toronto and co-author of the study, emphasized the importance of this finding, suggesting that it deepens our understanding of the impact of climate on vision health.

Demographic Factors

The study revealed interesting variations in the strength of the association between temperature and vision impairment in different demographic groups. Researchers found a stronger link between temperature and vision impairment among individuals aged 65 to 79 compared to those aged 80 and above. Additionally, the association was stronger for men than for women and for white individuals compared to Black individuals. These findings shed light on potential risk factors that may exacerbate the impact of climate on vision health.

Possible Explanations

While the exact mechanisms behind the relationship between temperature and vision impairment remain unknown, researchers have speculated on several potential causes. Increased exposure to ultraviolet (UV) light, air pollution, infections, and the degradation of folic acid with rising temperatures are among the factors that may contribute to vision impairment. Further research is needed to delve deeper into these potential mechanisms and ascertain their influence on vision health.

Implications and Concerns

The implications of this study are significant, considering that vision problems are a leading cause of disabilities and functional limitations among older adults. Furthermore, vision impairment can contribute to falls and a lower quality of life. As global temperatures continue to rise due to climate change, there is a genuine concern that the prevalence of vision impairment among older adults may increase. These findings emphasize the need for ongoing monitoring and intervention strategies to address this potential health challenge.

Research Methodology

To conduct this study, researchers utilized data from six consecutive waves of the American Community Survey, which focuses on Americans aged 65 and above. The survey included a question about vision impairment, specifically asking whether the individual was blind or had serious difficulty seeing, even with glasses. To correlate this data with temperature patterns, the researchers incorporated average temperature data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.


The unexpected link between climate and vision impairment uncovered by this study offers valuable insights into the potential impact of rising temperatures on eye health, particularly among older adults. The findings highlight the need for consistent monitoring of this relationship as climate change progresses. By understanding the connection between climate and vision, healthcare providers and policymakers can develop proactive strategies to mitigate the risks associated with vision impairment. Ultimately, prioritizing eye health and adapting to changing environmental conditions is crucial in ensuring a better quality of life for older adults worldwide.


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