The prevalence of refractive errors among adults in the United States, Western Europe, and Australia

Arch Ophthalmol. 2004 Apr;122(4):495-505. doi: 10.1001/archopht.122.4.495.


Objective: To estimate the prevalence of refractive errors in persons 40 years and older.

Methods: Counts of persons with phakic eyes with and without spherical equivalent refractive error in the worse eye of +3 diopters (D) or greater, -1 D or less, and -5 D or less were obtained from population-based eye surveys in strata of gender, race/ethnicity, and 5-year age intervals. Pooled age-, gender-, and race/ethnicity-specific rates for each refractive error were applied to the corresponding stratum-specific US, Western European, and Australian populations (years 2000 and projected 2020).

Results: Six studies provided data from 29 281 persons. In the US, Western European, and Australian year 2000 populations 40 years or older, the estimated crude prevalence for hyperopia of +3 D or greater was 9.9%, 11.6%, and 5.8%, respectively (11.8 million, 21.6 million, and 0.47 million persons). For myopia of -1 D or less, the estimated crude prevalence was 25.4%, 26.6%, and 16.4% (30.4 million, 49.6 million, and 1.3 million persons), respectively, of whom 4.5%, 4.6%, and 2.8% (5.3 million, 8.5 million, and 0.23 million persons), respectively, had myopia of -5 D or less. Projected prevalence rates in 2020 were similar.

Conclusions: Refractive errors affect approximately one third of persons 40 years or older in the United States and Western Europe, and one fifth of Australians in this age group.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Age Distribution
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Australia / epidemiology
  • Black People / statistics & numerical data*
  • Europe / epidemiology
  • Female
  • Hispanic or Latino / statistics & numerical data*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Prevalence
  • Refractive Errors / ethnology*
  • Sex Distribution
  • United States / epidemiology
  • White People / statistics & numerical data*