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Patients Are At Risk of Depression Due to Delayed Surgery

Delays to cataract treatment could be putting more than 500,000 patients at risk of developing mental health issues including severe depression.

Stephen Hannan, Clinical Services Director at Optical Express issued the warning during Mental Health Awareness Week, highlighting recent research that links delays in cataract surgery with depression. His warning comes as more than 500,000 people are currently on NHS waiting lists for cataract surgery across the UK.

The potential impact on patients’ mental health of extended periods of restricted vision is particularly concerning in the context of the NHS waiting lists for cataract surgery. The backlog has soared during the COVID-19 pandemic, with some patients facing waits of over two years. Cataracts erode patients’ vision over time and can eventually lead to blindness if left untreated, and Hannan warns that delays in treatment can also have a severe impact on mental health.

Hannan pointed to recent clinical research that showed the risk of developing depression was almost doubled in patients with untreated cataracts. He also warned that patients are suffering from anxiety and fear, with the uncertainty of being on a long waiting list, and no idea when they are likely to get treated taking its toll.

Stephen Hannan, Clinical Services Director, Optical Express, said:

“Lengthy waiting lists for NHS cataract surgery are not just risking patient’s eyesight, but also having a potentially damaging effect on their mental wellbeing. The evidence shows that the risk of depression is significantly decreased in cataract patients who have surgery compared with those who did not. This demonstrates the life-changing power of vision correction surgery, but it also sends a clear message: the current backlog for NHS cataract surgery is neither fair nor safe.

“Until the backlog for NHS cataract surgery is reduced, patients across the country will continue to suffer. For anyone who has concerns about how their cataracts are affecting their day to day life, or impacting their mental health, we recommend making an appointment at one of our clinics as soon as possible.”

Audrey Smith, Optical Express cataract surgery patient, said:

“When you’re living with cataracts, to a certain extent you just start to cope. And then you realise, after a few weeks and months, that you’re not quite coping as well as you did, and it just got worse and worse. There didn’t seem to be any headway in where I was, and I wasn’t given a timeframe for getting my cataracts treated through the NHS.

“If I think I wasn’t coping well at all in the latter stages, I just think it must be absolutely horrendous for some people.”

At Optical Express, thanks to our nationwide network of clinics, we can treat cataracts in a matter of weeks. You don’t need to endure lengthy waiting lists for treatment. If you have any concerns about how your vision might be impacting your mental health, physical health or wellbeing book a free consultation appointment at your nearest Optical Express clinic today to speak to one of our experts.


  • Cataract and the increased risk of depression in general population: a 16-year nationwide population-based longitudinal study:
  • In a study of 9,401 Optical Express patients treated from January to April 2021, 62.9% said they take part in more physical exercise following treatment, and 65.3% said they lead a more active lifestyle following treatment.
  • Association between physical exercise and mental health in 1·2 million individuals in the USA between 2011 and 2015: a cross-sectional study,
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