Blindness Around the World

  • Approximately 253 million people worldwide are living with a vision impairment: 217 million have a vision impairment that’s moderate to severe, while 36 million are blind (Source: The Lancet Global Health)
  • Approximately 19 million children suffer from a vision impairment. 12 million of these cases are due to a refractive error while irreversible blindness affects around 1.4 million (Source: World Health Organization)
  • 81% of people with moderate to severe vision impairment or who are blind are 50 years old and over (Source: The Lancet Global Health)
  • Around the world, chronic eye diseases are the number one cause of vision loss, with the top two causes being un-operated cataracts and uncorrected refractive errors. The former is the leading cause in countries with low or middle incomes (Source: World Health Organization)
  • More than 80% of vision impairments are curable or preventable
  • Over the last 25 years, there has been a significant reduction in the prevalence of infectious eye diseases, such as onchocerciasis and trachoma (Source: World Health Organization)
  • Estimates indicate that there could be 115 million blind people around the world by 2050, an increase of 38.5 million from 2020. This figure is due to ageing and growing populations (Source: PubMed.gov)
  • The World Health Organization’s action plan looks to reduce avoidable vision impairments by 25% from 2014 to 2019 (Source: World Health Organization)

Blindness in the UK

UK Adults

  • There are 2 million people in the UK who are living with sight loss (Source: NHS)
  • The estimated number of people with sight loss by country are: (Source: RNIB):
    • 1.7 million – England
    • 171,000 – Scotland
    • 107,000 – Wales
    • 51,000 – Northern Ireland
  • Around 350,000 people are registered as partially sighted or blind in the UK (Source: RNIB):
    • England – 147,000 registered as partially sighted and 143,000 registered as blind
    • Wales – 8,000 registered as sight impaired and 8,000 registered as severely sight impaired
    • Scotland – 15,000 registered as partially sighted and 19,000 registered as severely sight impaired
  • Approximately 100,000 adults with learning disabilities in the UK are partially sighted or blind (Source: RNIB)
  • Of the 2 million cases, the leading causes of sight loss are: (Source: NCBI)
    • Refractive error – 39%
    • Age-related macular degeneration – 23%
    • Cataracts – 19%
    • Glaucoma – 7%
    • Other eye diseases – 7%
    • Diabetic retinopathy – 5%
  • The main causes of blindness in adults are: (Source: NCBI)
    • Age-related macular degeneration – 48%
    • Glaucoma – 17.5%
    • Cataracts – 16%
    • Other eye diseases – 9%
    • Diabetic eye disease – 8%
    • Refractive error – 2%
  • Estimates indicate that, by 2050, there will be 4,145,000 people with sight loss in the UK (Source: NCBI)
  • At least £3 billion every year is estimated to be spent on eye health in the UK, with indirect costs that cost the UK economy being around £6 billion per year, including unpaid care provision and lower employment (Source: NCBI)
  • Only 17% of people who are suffering from vision loss receive emotional support for their sight problems (Source: RNIB)
  • Less than a third of those who are registered as partially sighted or blind were offered mobility training, and less than a fifth received practical support that helped them get around their home (Source: RNIB)
  • Only a fourth of registered partially sighted or blind people are employed (27%), which is a fall from 33% in 2006 (Source: My Voice)
  • 39% of people who are partially sighted or blind and are of working age say that when it comes to making ends meet they have some or great difficulty (Source: My Voice)
  • 35% of people who are partially sighted or blind say that the attitudes they witness from the public in relation to their vision impairment are sometimes, frequently or always negative (Source: My Voice)
  • 31% of people who are partially sighted or blind say they’re never or rarely optimistic about the future (Source: My Voice)

UK Children

  • There are more than 25,000 children aged 16 and under who are visually impaired: (Source: RNIB):
    • 21,900 in England
    • 1,900 in Scotland
    • 1,200 in Wales
    • 800 in Northern Ireland
  • There are many different causes of blindness in children but the most common cause is cerebral visual impairment (Source: NCBI)
  • 2 in every 1,000 children and young people (up to 25 years old) have a vision impairment (Source: Vision UK)
  • 5 in every 10,000 children up to the age of 16 are blind or severely sight impaired (Source: Vision UK)
  • At higher risk of developing an impairment are: (Source: Vision UK)
    • Babies with a very low birth weight
    • Children from economically-deprived social backgrounds
    • Those with learning difficulties
    • Those from some South Asian ethnic groups
  • Approximately 31 in 100,000 children and young adults will have a co-occurring hearing and vision impairment (Source: Vision UK)
  • Around 70% of children and young people who have a vision impairment receive mainstream education, 30% are in specialist schools (Source: Vision UK)

Blindness in the US

US Adults

  • 25.5 million adults in America (those aged 18 and over) have experienced vision loss (Source: National Center for Health Statistics)
  • Less than 2% of people who are visually impaired or blind work with guide dogs (Source: Guiding Eyes for the Blind)
  • Of all the Americans reporting vision loss: (Source: National Center for Health Statistics)
    • 19.8 million are white
    • 3.6 million are African American or black
    • 1.1 million are Asian
    • 292,000 are Alaska Native or American Indian
    • 647,000 are other races
    • 43,600 are multiple races
  • The marital status of Americans with vision loss are as follows: (Source: National Center for Health Statistics)
    • 12.1 million are married
    • 4.5 million have never married
    • 4.3 million are divorced
    • 2.6 million are widowed
    • 1.9 million live with their partner
  •  Approximately 9.2 million people with vision loss live in the South, 6.2 million are located in the West, 5.9 million live in the Midwest and 4.3 million live in the Northeast (Source: National Center for Health Statistics)
  • Of those with vision loss who are aged 25 and over: (Source: National Center for Health Statistics)
    • 5.9 million have a bachelor’s degree or higher
    • 6.9 million have a college education but no bachelor’s degree
    • 6.4 million have a GED or high school diploma
    • 4.2 million have less than a high school diploma
  •  Family income for those with vision loss: (Source: National Center for Health Statistics)
    • Less than $35,000 – 10.1 million people
    • Between $35,000 and $49,999 – 2.8 million people
    • Between $50,000 and $74,999 – 3.6 million people
    • Between $75,000 and $99,999 – 2.3 million people
    • More than $100,000 – 4.5 million people
  •  Of those non-institutionalised people with a visual disability in the US: (Source: National Federation of the Blind)
    • 497,200 are uninsured (13.7%)
    • 3,136,000 are insured (86.3%)
      • 1,408,700 through Medicaid (38.8%)
      • 1,247,900 through a union or employer (34.3%)
      • 784,400 through Medicare (21.6%)
      • 395,400 through a purchased plan (10.9%)
      • 204,600 through military/VA schemes (5.6%)
      • 33,000 through the Indian Health Service (0.9%)
  •  Over the next 30 years, the number of adults with age-related eye diseases and vision impairment is expected to double due to the ageing US population. By 2020, it’s predicted that: (Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)
    • 2.9 million people will have advanced age-related macular degeneration (with associated vision loss) – up from 1.8 million today
    • 3.3 million people will have glaucoma – up from 2.2 million today
    • 7.2 million people will have diabetic retinopathy – up from 4.1 million today
    • 30.1 million people will have cataracts – up from 20.5 million today
  •  According to estimates, the total annual economic impact of vision problems in the US is $51.4 billion: (Source: Prevent Blindness)
    • Direct medical costs: $16.2 billion
    • Other direct costs: $11.2 billion
    • Lost productivity: $8 billion
    • Medical care expenditures: $5.2 billion
    • Informal care costs: $0.36 billion
    • Health utility costs: $10.5 billion

US Children

  • There are approximately 502,191 children in the US with vision difficulties (Source: United States Census Bureau) this is the equivalent of nearly 3% of all children under the age of 18 (Source: Prevent Blindness)
  • Of those with vision difficulty who are under the age of 18, 270,270 are girls and 231,921 are boys (Source: United States Census Bureau)
  • There are around 63,657 children, youth and adult students who are legally blind and are in an educational setting (Source: American Printing House for the Blind)
  • The most common loss of vision in children is lazy eye (amblyopia), which is found in 2% of children aged 6 to 72 months old (Source: Prevent Blindness)
  • The most common childhood vision disorders are refractive errors, e.g. astigmatism, hyperopia and myopia: (Source: Prevent Blindness)