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Misconceptions and quirks of Australians unveiled in new eye health survey

Australia’s spending and hygiene habits have been laid bare in a survey that casts a new light on the country’s general attitudes and understanding of eyecare.

Optometry Australia (OA)’s 2020 Vision Index Report, which was commissioned to mark the beginning of its 2020: the year of good vision for life initiative, also offers a glimpse into the way parents think about their children’s eye health. It also reveals an alarming proportion of the population have never had an eye test.

Released last week, the 35-page research paper provides a snapshot of the nation’s awareness of issues concerning glasses, contact lenses, eye conditions, disease, nutrition, workplace, driving, sport and digital behaviour.

“The year 2020 represents a significant opportunity to focus attention on eye health and better educate the nation,” OA chief clinical officer Mr Luke Arundel said.

“The report has helped shine a light on the importance of regular eye examinations and has provided us with a bank of insights around people’s misconceptions and behaviours when it comes to their eye health. We can now use these insights to continue to encourage more Aussies to focus on their vision in 2020 and for years to come.”

According to the survey’s results, 66% of Australians wear prescription glasses, while 13% wear prescription contact lenses and 31% wear prescription sunglasses.

In terms of spending, $243 is the average amount Australians are prepared to pay for prescription glasses. The figure was $179 for prescription sunglasses, with UV protection being a top consideration in their purchasing decisions.

Attitudes towards contact lens hygiene also revealed a significant number of people put themselves at an increased risk of eye ulcers and serious, sight-threatening infection.

In total, 24% of Australians who wear prescription contacts leave them in overnight at least once every two weeks, while 19% often or always leave them in for longer than advised by an optometrist. As many as one in 10 rarely wash their hands before putting them on their eyes.

The report also revealed 3% of Australians have worn cosmetic contact lenses to change their appearance, with 33% having experienced negative side effects.

In keeping with hygiene, only 40% of Australians clean their makeup tools less than twice a year, and 35% who have had cosmetic injectables around or under the eyes contracted an eye infection each time.

Carrots, kids and blue light

Despite these attitudes, 76% of all Australians consider eyesight to be their most important sense, with three in five stating they’re worried about the quality of their eyesight.

The report also highlighted the majority of Australians understand the benefits of an annual regular eye examination, with 87% attending an optometry examination at least once in their lifetime

However, 35% don’t undertake regular checks, and “an alarming” one in eight Aussies have never seen an optometrist in their life (12%).

The top three reasons for never booking an optometry appointment were; because of a perception that it’s too expensive; the person believing their vision is perfect; and a fear of the results.

The figures also demonstrate room for improvement among parents. Almost four in five (79%) believe their children have great eyesight, however only 68% of have taken their children to an eye exam.

“Of those children who have visited an optometrist, 35% have required prescription glasses – contradicting most parents’ belief that there is nothing wrong with their child’s vision,” the report stated.

Other interesting figures revealed 31% of respondents believe eating carrots will improve their eyesight when, in fact, a variety of different nutrients may contribute to healthier eyes.

Meanwhile, 32% of young Australians (18-34) believe blue light from computers and smartphones is an issue for their eyesight. Interestingly, 43% are worried about developing or worsening short-sightedness from too much screen time.

Despite the prevalence of myopia and presbyopia, 33% and 69% respectively had never heard of the conditions.