Do Glasses Improve Mental Health?

Three out of four adults use some form of corrective vision eyewear to see better, but that might not be the only benefit. 

According to a 2018 large-scale consumer survey, there were 194 million U.S. adults (about 75% of roughly 250 million) who augment their eyesight, including: 

  • 164 million prescription eyeglasses. 
  • 33 million over-the-counter reading glasses. 
  • 28 million contact lenses 

Many people use more than one type of eyewear, depending on circumstances. 

Physical Benefits of Wearing Eyeglasses

When you suffer from vision problems, things lack clarity, words are blurry, vision is unclear, and you just don’t feel good in your skin. Eyeglasses can be the key to a whole new world.

Wearing glasses can provide benefits to your physical health, including:

  • Fighting Eye Strain. Eye strain from working in front of digital screens or staring at smartphones, tablets, and other devices at all hours of the day afflicts 70% of adults.  The more we look at screens, the bigger the strain on our eyes. 
  • Protection from the Sun. Your skin isn't the only thing that can be damaged by harsh UV rays. If you spend hours or any significant amount of time outside, you need protection from the sun’s glare. 
  • Better Field of Vision. When you’re driving a car, you want to see clearly whether an object is up close, in the distance, or to the left or right of you. By giving you a clear field of vision, eyeglasses put you in control.

Vision Impairment and Stress

Stress and anxiety can affect us in so many ways, physically and mentally. It can also impact our vision. Stress releases chemicals, such as adrenaline and cortisol, that can cause dilated pupils, sensitivity to light, and eye twitching, impairing our ability to see clearly

Studies have proven the connection between mental health issues and vision loss. Mental health struggles can even lead to substance use disorders such as addiction.

If you think you have stress tied to vision impairment, watch for common symptoms, including:

  • Dry or Wet Eyes. Do you experience very dry eyes or eyes with a lot of moisture? This could be a symptom of vision issues with a link to stress.
  • Blurry Vision. An inability to focus or concentrate due to blurriness when trying to hone in on something could be a warning sign.
  • Distorted vision. Seeing stars or flashes of light, narrowed or tunnel vision, double vision, fogginess. 

Stress isn’t the only mental health issue involved with poor vision.  

Mental Health Gains From Glasses

At first glance, eyewear and mental health don’t seem connected, but there are several ways, indirectly, that clearer vision can improve your mental state, including: 

  • Improved Self-Confidence. You might avoid wearing glasses because of how you think it makes you look (though some people who don’t have a problem seeing or reading wear glasses as a fashion statement), but wearing them might make you seem more confident. When we can see what’s in front of and around us clearly, we walk more confidently. The right eyeglass frames also look better than squinty eyes. It’s not going too far to say they can improve your quality of life. 
  • Peace of Mind and Safety. Driving is an inherently dangerous activity. If you can’t read road signs accurately or see what the cars around you are doing, you will feel unsafe. A lack of clarity might even cause you to panic, causing a collision or other accident. The improved vision from corrective lenses can make you more relaxed and a better driver. 
  • Feel Smart and Professional. People treat you differently when you wear eyeglasses. Rightly or wrongly, wearing eyeglasses makes you seem smarter and more competent. (There does seem to be a correlation, if not necessarily causation.) Rimless glasses don’t make you seem as intelligent as full-rim glasses (though they make you more attractive and likable). Seeming more competent may make you feel more competent and avoid the impostor syndrome, making you feel like you belong.

The mental health gains from wearing glasses will vary from one person to another. 

Glasses Are Affordable

The great thing about eyeglasses is that there is a price point for every budget, with or without insurance coverage. There are designer frames and single-vision or multifocal lenses, but there are also walk-in retailers with less expensive options.

VSP, an international vision care insurer, estimated an average cost of $366 for frames and lenses ($576 including an eye exam) without insurance. A 2021 Consumer Reports survey found that the median price could vary from $91 to more than $400, depending on the retailer. Online options can be even cheaper. 

Wearing eyeglasses is not the only way to decrease stress or otherwise improve mental health. Many lifestyle changes can help battle the long-term impacts of mental health and vision problems:

  • Reduce stress by getting enough sleep, eating healthy nutritious meals, and practicing meditation
  • Reduce digital eye strain by using the 20-20-20 rule: every 20 minutes, take a 20-second break, and look at something at least 20 feet away.  

It’s not an either-or choice. In the end, eyeglasses may be part of the answer, especially if your eyesight is poor. For the physical, professional, and mental health benefits, the cost of eyeglasses seems well worth it. 

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