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Uncorrected myopia costs global economy AU$345 billion

08/05/2019By Myles Hume
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A new study from the Brien Holden Vision Institute (BHVI) has exposed myopia’s $345 billion annual strain on the global economy, a burden that could be offset by a one-off investment.

Recently published in the journal Ophthalmology, the BHVI study aimed to determine the global impact of vision impairment due to uncorrected myopia on productivity. The study involved researchers from the University of New South Wales, as well as the US and Africa.

The research estimated that in 2015, 538 million people suffered from vision impairment due to uncorrected myopia. Financially, myopia weighed heaviest on the East Asia region –including China – where US$150 billion (AU$215 b) in productivity was lost. In addition to East Asia, BHVI’s modelling demonstrated South Asia and South East Asia each experienced productivity losses of more than US$30 billion (AU$42 b). These losses represent in excess of 1% of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in each of the three regions.

The study authors estimated a one-off investment of US$20 billion (AU$28 b) – 8% of total lost productivity – would establish the services necessary to provide vision correction to all in need, potentially prompting a significant boost in annual productivity.

Dr Tim Fricke, BHVI
Dr Tim Fricke, BHVI
“The impact of vision impairment on lives can be substantial, including affecting employment, education and social interaction. ”
Dr Tim Fricke, BHVI

“Even under conservative assumptions, the potential productivity loss associated with vision impairment and blindness resulting from uncorrected myopia is substantially greater than the cost of correcting myopia,” the report concluded.

Co–author Dr Tim Fricke said current trends indicated 2.6 billion people will have myopia in 2020, and current service capacity would leave more than half a billion of those unable to access appropriate care.

“The impact of vision impairment on lives can be substantial, including affecting employment, education and social interaction. This study captures one element of that, demonstrating the scale of the economic burden. For a single health condition to result in a loss of over 1% of GDP is enormously important,” he said.

BHVI head of myopia Professor Padmaja Sankaridurg said a combination of factors explained the substantial burden in East Asia, including high density living with a focus on near based activities.

“Peak international eye care and health agencies, governments and international NGOs are working collaboratively to build the sustainable eye care systems that would address this need. This research demonstrates a need for funding to be either prioritised or sourced, to allow the successful implementation of these efforts,” Sankaridurg said. The researchers stressed productivity only formed part of the overall economic burden of myopia.

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