Sydney, Australia, 3 August 2017: New global estimates of the number of people blind and vision impaired have just been published including near vision figures. Vision impairment affects economic and educational opportunities, reduces quality of life and increases the risk of death. Prevalence estimates are important for the development of public health policies, planning of education initiatives and evaluating their success.
The new research study confirms globally an estimated 36 million (0.5% of the world’s population) are blind and 1.5 billion – 20% of the world’s population – have some form of vision impairment.
This study is the first to include figures on near vision loss due to presbyopia – a condition that affects a person’s ability to read and is associated with ageing eyes – can be treated with spectacles but in many situations this solution does not occur due to contributing factors such as lack of access, lack of awareness and poverty.
Presbyopia makes up the largest proportion of vision impairment with an estimated 1095 million people aged over 35 affected, including almost 667 million people over 50.
The study also revealed gender inequity, across the global scope, with more women than men bearing the burden of vision loss, even when accounting for confounding factors such as their longer survival.
The publication reports an 18% increase overall in prevalence of blindness since 1990. The increase is attributable to population growth and ageing. However, when these factors are accounted for, we find that rates have declined over this time period.
This suggests that the modest investments made in alleviation of vision impairment over this period have reaped considerable benefits. However, the growth and change in age structure of the world’s population is causing a substantial increase in the overall number of people with blindness and vision impairment, highlighting the need to scale up our current efforts in the years to come.
Nina Tahhan, Senior Research Fellow at the Brien Holden Vision Institute, is an author on the new ground-breaking research study. “It is very pleasing to see near vision impairment, due to presbyopia, officially counted in global vision impairment estimates. It is one of the simplest vision problems to correct, as just a pair of reading glasses is needed and it is the largest contributor to vision impairment globally, yet it has been historically overlooked. We take spectacle correction for granted in the developed world, yet globally there are 1.1 billion people who are vision impaired, because they cannot access the reading glasses they need to see clearly.”
Brien Holden Vision Institute were the principle funders of this pivotal research study.