Eye examination-related anxiety

We set up an online questionnaire to explore how anxiety impacts the eye examination experiences of autistic adults.

Who took part?

A total of 322 autistic adults without learning disabilities completed the questionnaire. Of these, 197 identified as female, 94 male, 27 non-binary, 2 transgender, and 2 preferred not to say.

The age range of participants was 18-80+ years. The majority of participants required spectacles and had undergone an eye examination within the last 2 years.

What participants had to do

Participants were asked to anonymously complete the “Optometric Patient Anxiety Scale” online.

This questionnaire presented the participants with 10 potentially anxiety-provoking situations during an eye examination, which they had to rate using four options.

The situations covered how they may feel during the eye tests, interaction with the optometrist and worries about what could happen to their eyes.

What we found

When we compared the results of this study to those from a non-autistic population, we were surprised to find no significant difference in the levels of eye examination-related anxiety.

Looking closer at the Optometric Patient Anxiety Scale, the 10 situations don’t necessarily cover the key anxiety-provoking factors that we have found in studies 1 and 3. These include:

  • reluctance to book appointments over the phone;
  • the retail environment in the practice;
  • having to meet multiple members of staff during the appointment.

This means that this questionnaire may underestimate the true eye examination-related anxiety of autistic adults.