Sydney, Australia, 3 August 2017: A new study published in The Lancet journal has estimated that more than 1 billion people are vision impaired because they do not have access to a pair of reading glasses. The study also estimates that 36 million people (0.5% of the world’s population) are blind. Vision impairment affects economic and educational opportunities, reduces quality of life and increases the risk of death.
Dr Nina Tahhan, Senior Research Fellow at the Brien Holden Vision Institute, one of the study authors, says it’s an important recognition. “It is very pleasing to see near vision impairment, due to presbyopia, officially counted in global vision impairment estimates,” she says.
“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.
The publication reports an 18% increase in the number of blind people since 1990. The increase is attributable to population growth and ageing. However, when these factors are accounted for, the prevalence of blindness has declined over this time period.
The study thus suggests that the modest investments made in the 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.
However, the authors argue that the return on investment for vision interventions is much greater than most health programs.
Brien Holden Vision Institute were the principal funders of this pivotal research study.
View infographic here.