In a study published in JAMA Ophthalmology today, “Prevalence of Visual Acuity Loss or Blindness in the US,” researchers estimate permanent vision loss and blindness in Americans of all ages, including people younger than 40 years old, and adults in group quarters, such as nursing homes or jails. Researchers found more than 7 million people are living with uncorrectable vision loss, including more than one million Americans who are living with blindness.
“What makes this study different than previous national estimates of vision loss and blindness is that the methods we used allowed for a broader analysis of populations in the United States than were previously included,” said David B. Rein, Ph.D., Program Area Director for NORC at the University of Chicago’s Public Health Analytics Program and one of the study’s co-authors. “While the addition of these various age groups is partially responsible for the increase, the growth in the number of older Americans has also contributed to more people with vision loss and blindness in the United States than previously estimated.”
Additional findings from the study include:
- Of those living with vision loss and blindness in the United States, nearly 1 in 4 are under the age of 40.
- More than 1.6 million Americans who are living with vision loss or blindness are under the age of 40.
- Of them, 141,000 are blind, 13% of all people with blindness in the U.S.
- 358,000 people with vision loss and blindness are living in group quarters, such as nursing homes or jails.
- Of them 130,000 are living with blindness, representing nearly 12% of people living with blindness.
- In the United States:
- 20% of all people aged 85 and older experience permanent vision loss.
- More females than males experience permanent vision loss or blindness.
- There is a higher risk of vision loss among Hispanic/Latino and Black people than among Whites.
“Prevalence of Visual Acuity Loss or Blindness in the US,” was authored by researchers from the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) at the University of Washington (Seattle), NORC at the University of Chicago (NORC), and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) Vision Health Initiative, with support from Prevent Blindness.
“Vision loss and blindness are often preventable. Vision loss is heavily influenced by access to eye care, general health care, geography, race/ethnicity, sun exposure, and underlying health conditions, like diabetes,” said study co-author, Elizabeth Lundeen, PhD, MPH, epidemiologist, CDC. “These updated estimates help us better understand the problem, allow for strategic resource allocation, the development and implementation of policies and programs to reduce the burden of vision loss and blindness in the United States.”
Study estimates were developed using data within CDC’s Vision and Eye Health Surveillance System (VEHSS). The VEHSS houses diverse data sources for vision – including Medicare and private insurance claims data, electronic health record data, and self-reported and clinical evaluation data from representative national surveys. Researchers used a statistical methodology called Bayesian meta-regression which used the system’s multiple data sources to produce new, more comprehensive national and state-level estimates of vision loss and blindness.
Prevent Blindness, a primary stakeholder in the study, serves as an engagement and communication channel for the VEHSS, working directly with NORC, CDC, and other partners.