Older women who get cataract surgery may have a lower risk of early death, according to a new study from researchers in Australia.

By the numbers — The study analyzed data from more than 74,044 women who participated in the Women’s Health Initiative and were diagnosed with a cataract. Of those, 41,735 had cataract surgery and 32,309 did not. Women who opted for the surgery had a 60 percent lower overall death rate than women who did not, and between 37 to 69 percent lower death rates from cancer, lung problems, infectious disease, vascular issues and unintentional injuries.

Bottom line — The study did not randomly assign the women to either have or not have surgery, so no firm conclusions can be drawn from the findings. Researchers suggested that perhaps the differences could be due to socioeconomic reasons, that women who had surgery might be better able to afford other health interventions. But even when they tried to account for economic factors in the analysis, the results did not change. The researchers believed the results were likely multifactorial and not solely due to having cataract surgery.

The findings do mirror results of a previous study that used Medicare data and found that both men and women who had cataract surgery had lower early death rates. Other studies have linked cataract surgery to a lower risk of falls and fractures and to improved cognitive functioning. But it’s unclear how cataract surgery might affect better outcomes for such a wide range of health conditions.