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RESEARCH STUDY

RESEARCH

The State of Vision, Aging, and Public Health in America

AUTHOR:

National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion

SPONSOR/INSTITUTION:

USA Dept of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

YEAR PUBLISHED:

2011

PUBLICATION:

CDC's Vision Health Initiative

KEY HIGHLIGHTS:

KEY POINTS

  • Vision impairment is a serious public health concern among older adults, affecting more than 2.9 million people in the United States.

  • The prevalence of blindness and vision impairment increases rapidly with age among all racial and ethnic groups, particularly among people older than 75 years.

  • Cases of early age-related macular degeneration are expected to double by 2050, from 9.1 million to 17.8 million for those aged 50 years or older.

  • Cases of diabetic retinopathy among people aged 65 or older are expected to quadruple by 2050, from 2.5 million to 9.9 million.

  • Direct medical expenses for older adults with vision impairment cost the United States $8.3 billion a year.

SUMMARY

This issue brief summarizes the prevalence of vision loss and eye diseases reported by people aged 65 or older, and it provides information about access to eye care, health status, and comorbid conditions among older adults.

Data were collected from 19 states that used the Vision Impairment and Access to Eye Care Module (Vision Module) of CDC’s Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS) during 2006–2008. National studies indicate that vision loss is associated with higher prevalence of chronic health conditions, death, falls and injuries, depression, and social isolation. When combined with chronic health conditions such as diabetes, vision loss is associated with overall poorer health among people aged 65 or older.

Vision loss compromises people’s quality of life because it reduces their capacity to read, drive a car, watch television, or keep personal accounts. Often, it isolates older people and keeps them from friends and family.