Myopia is one of the most prevalent disorders of the eye. Higher myopia is associated with comorbidities that increase risks of severe and irreversible loss of vision, such as retinal detachment, subretinal neovascularization, dense cataract, and glaucoma. In recent years, reports from population-based prevalence studies carried out in various geographical areas now give a clear picture of the current distribution of refractive error. The scarcity of data from well-designed longitudinal cohort studies is still yet to be addressed. These studies have confirmed the previous data indicating that prevalence of refractive error varies according to ethnicity and geographic regions, and also point to an increase in myopia prevalence over the past half-century. The problem is particularly pronounced in affluent, industrialised areas of East Asia. Environmental risk factors for myopia related to socioeconomic status and lifestyle have been identified. The past decade has seen a greater understanding of the molecular biological mechanisms that determine refractive error, giving further support to the belief that myopia is the result of a complex interaction between genetic predisposition and environmental exposures. This review summarizes data on the prevalence, incidence, progression, associations, risk factors, and impact from recent epidemiological studies on myopia.