Importance: The number of individuals with visual impairment (VI) and blindness is increasing in the United States and around the globe as a result of shifting demographics and aging populations. Tracking the number and characteristics of individuals with VI and blindness is especially important given the negative effect of these conditions on physical and mental health.
Objectives: To determine the demographic and geographic variations in VI and blindness in adults in the US population in 2015 and to estimate the projected prevalence through 2050.
Design, setting, and participants: In this population-based, cross-sectional study, data were pooled from adults 40 years and older from 6 major population-based studies on VI and blindness in the United States. Prevalence of VI and blindness were reported by age, sex, race/ethnicity, and per capita prevalence by state using the US Census projections (January 1, 2015, through December 31, 2050).
Main outcomes and measures: Prevalence of VI and blindness.
Results: In 2015, a total of 1.02 million people were blind, and approximately 3.22 million people in the United States had VI (best-corrected visual acuity in the better-seeing eye), whereas up to 8.2 million people had VI due to uncorrected refractive error. By 2050, the numbers of these conditions are projected to double to approximately 2.01 million people with blindness, 6.95 million people with VI, and 16.4 million with VI due to uncorrected refractive error. The highest numbers of these conditions in 2015 were among non-Hispanic white individuals (2.28 million), women (1.84 million), and older adults (1.61 million), and these groups will remain the most affected through 2050. However, African American individuals experience the highest prevalence of visual impairment and blindness. By 2050, the highest prevalence of VI among minorities will shift from African American individuals (15.2% in 2015 to 16.3% in 2050) to Hispanic individuals (9.9% in 2015 to 20.3% in 2050). From 2015 to 2050, the states projected to have the highest per capita prevalence of VI are Florida (2.56% in 2015 to 3.98% in 2050) and Hawaii (2.35% in 2015 and 3.93% in 2050), and the states projected to have the highest projected per capita prevalence of blindness are Mississippi (0.83% in 2015 to 1.25% in 2050) and Louisiana (0.79% in 2015 to 1.20% in 2050).
Conclusions and relevance: These data suggest that vision screening for refractive error and early eye disease may reduce or prevent a high proportion of individuals from experiencing unnecessary vision loss and blindness, decrease associated costs to the US economy for medical services and lost productivity, and contribute to better quality of life. Targeted education and screening programs for non-Hispanic white women and minorities should become increasingly important because of the projected growth of these populations and their relative contribution to the overall numbers of these conditions.