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RESEARCH STUDY

RESEARCH

Economic Cost of Visual Impairment in Japan

AUTHOR:

Chris B. Roberts, BA, BEc, Yoshimune Hiratsuka, MD, MPH; Masakazu Yamada, MD; M. Lynne Pezzullo, BEc; Katie Yates, BSc, BComm; Shigeru Takano, MD; Kensaku Miyake, MD; Hugh R. Taylor, MD

SPONSOR/INSTITUTION:

YEAR PUBLISHED:

2010

PUBLICATION:

JAMA Ophthalmology

KEY HIGHLIGHTS:

  • Increasing eye disease and vision loss is often driven by an aging population and social and environmental changes.

  • Population-based studies from Australia, Europe, and the United States have demonstrated that the prevalence of visual impairment approximately triples with each decade of life beyond the age of 40 years.

  • In 2007, visual impairment affected more than 1.64 million people in Japan and cost around ¥8785.4 billion (US $72.8 billion) across the economy, equivalent to 1.7% of Japan’s gross domestic product.

SUMMARY

In 2007, visual impairment affected more than 1.64 million people in Japan and cost around ¥8785.4 billion (US $72.8 billion) across the economy, equivalent to 1.7% of Japan’s gross domestic product.

The loss of well-being (years of life lost from disability and premature mortality) cost ¥5863.6 billion (US $48.6 billion). Direct health system costs were ¥1338.2 billion (US $11.1 billion). Other financial costs were ¥1583.5 billion (US $13.1 billion), including productivity losses, care takers’ costs, and efficiency losses from welfare payments and taxes. The findings of this study are in line with those of similar studies in Australia and the United States.


The study, the first to quantify the impact of visual impairment in Japan, concluded that vision problems impose substantial costs on society, particularly to individuals with visual impairment and their families. Eliminating or reducing disabilities from visual impairment through public awareness of preventive care, early diagnosis, more intensive disease treatment, and new medical technologies could significantly improve the quality of life for people with visual impairment and their families, while also potentially reducing national health care expenditure and increasing productivity in Japan.

Increasing eye disease and vision loss is often driven by an aging population and social and environmental changes. Population-based studies from Australia, Europe, and the United States have demonstrated that the prevalence of visual impairment approximately triples with each decade of life beyond the age of 40 years.


The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development reported that in 2006, health expenditures in Japan accounted for 8.1% of the country’s gross domestic product. Although Japanese health expenditure was lower than the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development average of 8.9%, Japan has one of the world’s oldest and longest living populations. Measuring the cost of health care is essential for designing future health financing.


Rapid economic development, growing public awareness of treatable eye diseases, and the national medical insurance system have enhanced prevention and treatment of visually impairing conditions in Japan. However, the economic consequences of visual impairment have not been documented, apart from some top-down estimates based on national statistics. This is a timely first study to assess the economic impact of visual impairment in Japan.


Arch Ophthalmol. 2010;128(6):766-771. doi:10.1001/archophthalmol.2010.86.