PURPOSE To determine if incidence of contrast sensitivity (CS) impairment differs by generation and identify factors to explain these differences.
METHODS The Beaver Dam Eye Study (BDES) and Beaver Dam Offspring Study (BOSS) are cohort studies of aging adults in Beaver Dam, Wisconsin. Baseline examinations occurred from 1993 to 1995 (BDES) and 2005-2008 (BOSS). Follow-up examinations occurred in five-year intervals. CS testing was conducted with Pelli-Robson letter sensitivity charts; Incident impairment was a log CS score <1.55 in either eye at follow-up. Associations of incidence with generation were investigated using estimated hazard ratios (HR) with 95% confidence intervals (CI).
RESULTS Participants (N = 3185) had a mean age of 51.9 years at baseline (standard deviation = 9.9) and 51.9% were female. Ten-year cumulative incidence of CS impairment was 40.1%, was higher among women (41.7%) than men (38.8%), and increased by age group. The risk of incident CS impairment decreased by 39% per generation. In multivariable models, the Baby Boom Generation (HR = 0.42, 95%CI = 0.31, 0.58) and Generation X (HR = 0.56, 95%CI = 0.34, 0.91) had a significantly decreased risk of CS impairment compared to the Greatest Generation. Results were similar in sensitivity analyses excluding those with cataract, age-related macular degeneration, or visual acuity impairment.
CONCLUSION The risk of incident CS impairment decreased by birth cohort, with the greatest reduction in the Baby Boom Generation. The difference in risk suggests that there are unknown modifiable risk factors that may help to further explain the etiology of CS impairment and provide potential pathways for prevention in the future.