Attitudes towards and perceptions of visual loss and its causes among Hong Kong Chinese adults


Correspondence: Dr John Michon, Department of Ophthalmology, Duke University School of Medicine, Durham, NC 27710, USA. Email:


Background: As part of a study of visual function among Hong Kong Chinese adults, their attitudes and perceptions related to visual loss were examined. These included fear of visual loss, negative functional impacts of visual loss, the relationship between ageing and visual loss and help-seeking behaviours related to visual loss. Demographic factors associated with these variables were also studied.

Methods: The study population were people aged 40 and above randomly selected from the Shatin district of Hong Kong. The participants underwent eye examinations that included visual acuity, intraocular pressure measurement, visual field, slit-lamp biomicroscopy and ophthalmoscopy. The primary cause of visual disability was recorded. The participants were also asked about their attitudes and perceptions regarding visual loss using a structured questionnaire.

Results: The prevalence of bilateral visual disability was 2.2% among adults aged 40 or above and 6.4% among adults aged 60 or above. Nearly 36% of the participants selected blindness as the most feared disabling medical condition, which was substantially higher than conditions such as dementia, loss of limbs, deafness or aphasia. Inability to take care of oneself (21.0%), inconvenience related to mobility (20.2%) and inability to work (14.8%) were the three most commonly mentioned ‘worst impact’ effects of visual loss. Fully 68% of the participants believed that loss of vision is related to ageing. A majority of participants would seek help and advice from family members in case of visual loss.

Conclusions: Visual function is perceived to be very important by Hong Kong Chinese adults. The fear of visual loss is widespread and particularly affects self-care and functional abilities. Visual loss is commonly seen as related to ageing. Attitudes and perceptions in this population may be modified by educational and outreach efforts in order to take advantage of preventive measures.