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How do research participants with age-related vision loss talk about their experiences? A secondary discourse analysis of published qualitative extracts

Enoch, J. ORCID: 0000-0002-4614-6676, Subramanian, A. & Willig, C. (2024). How do research participants with age-related vision loss talk about their experiences? A secondary discourse analysis of published qualitative extracts. Ageing and Society, doi: 10.1017/s0144686x24000138


Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is a common, chronic, progressive eye condition that can affect individuals in later life and lead to loss of central visual function. In this analysis, we aimed to explore the discursive landscape of talk about AMD, drawing on extracts published in peer-reviewed qualitative studies on AMD.

Drawing on procedures of qualitative meta-synthesis, we compiled a corpus of raw data extracts from 25 qualitative studies on AMD published in English, largely carried out in high-income countries. Extracts were analysed to identify dominant discourses and key interpretative repertoires (such as recurring metaphors, tropes, and figures of speech). We adopted a Foucauldian discourse analytic approach, to consider the implications of dominant discourses, and their associated subject positions, for the subjective experience of living with AMD.

Our analysis identified five distinct ways in which AMD was constructed in research participants’ talk about their experience of AMD. They included: AMD as a mysterious affliction, linked to biological ageing; AMD as compromising independence; AMD as grievous loss; AMD as a condition to be stoically accepted; and – to a more limited extent - AMD as an opportunity for discovery.

Drawing on theory from critical disability studies and gerontology, we suggest that the constructions identified are underpinned by broader discourses which construct ageing and disability in largely negative, medicalised and individualistic terms. Taking up subject positions within such discourses may compound feelings of isolation, hopelessness and powerlessness. We suggest there may be value in exploring talk about experiences of living with AMD within a broader range of everyday social, relational and environmental contexts.

Publication Type: Article
Additional Information: This is an Open Access article, distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution licence (, which permits unrestricted re-use, distribution and reproduction, provided the original article is properly cited.
Publisher Keywords: Age-related macular degeneration; visual impairment; qualitative methodology; discourse analysis; secondary analysis
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology
R Medicine > RC Internal medicine > RC0321 Neuroscience. Biological psychiatry. Neuropsychiatry
R Medicine > RE Ophthalmology
Departments: School of Health & Psychological Sciences
School of Health & Psychological Sciences > Psychology
SWORD Depositor:
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