Objective: To quantify the total economic cost of visual impairment in Japan.
Methods: A prevalence-based approach was adopted using data on visual impairment, the national health system, and indirect costs to capture the economic impact of visual impairment in 2007.
Results: In 2007, visual impairment affected more than 1.64 million people in Japan and cost around yen 8785.4 billion (US $72.8 billion) across the economy, equivalent to 1.7% of Japan's gross domestic product. The loss of well-being (years of life lost from disability and premature mortality) cost yen 5863.6 billion (US $48.6 billion). Direct health system costs were yen 1338.2 billion (US $11.1 billion). Other financial costs were yen 1583.5 billion (US $13.1 billion), including productivity losses, care takers' costs, and efficiency losses from welfare payments and taxes. Community care was the largest component of other financial costs and was composed of paid and unpaid services that provide home and personal care to people with visual impairment. The findings of this study are in line with those of similar studies in Australia and the United States.
Conclusions: Visual impairment imposes substantial costs on society, particularly to individuals with visual impairment and their families. Eliminating or reducing disabilities from visual impairment through public awareness of preventive care, early diagnosis, more intensive disease treatment, and new medical technologies could significantly improve the quality of life for people with visual impairment and their families, while also potentially reducing national health care expenditure and increasing productivity in Japan. The results of this study should provide a first step in helping policymakers evaluate policy effects and to prioritize research expenditures.