Importance: Understanding the importance of eye health to the US population across ethnic and racial groups helps guide strategies to preserve vision in Americans and inform policy makers regarding priority of eye research to Americans.
Objective: To understand the importance and awareness of eye health in the US population across ethnic and racial groups.
Design, setting, and participants: Online nationwide poll created by experienced policy makers in August 2014 designed to understand the importance of eye health in the US population, although the poll was not subjected previously to formal construct-validity testing. The population survey comprised 2044 US adults including non-Hispanic white individuals and minority groups with minority oversampling to provide predicted margins of error no greater than 5%.
Main outcomes and measures: Respondent attitudes on the importance of eye health, concerns about losing vision, support for eye health research, and awareness of eye diseases and risk factors.
Results: Of the 2044 survey respondents, the weighten mean age was 46.2 years, 48% were male, and 11% were uninsured. Sixty three percent reported wearing glasses. Most individuals surveyed (87.5%; 95% CI, 84.5%-90%) believed that good vision is vital to overall health while 47.4% (95% CI, 43.7%-51.1%) rated losing vision as the worst possible health outcome. Respondents ranked losing vision as equal to or worse than losing hearing, memory, speech, or a limb. When asked about various possible consequences of vision loss, quality of life ranked as the top concern followed by loss of independence. Nearly two-thirds of respondents were aware of cataracts (65.8%) or glaucoma (63.4%); only half were aware of macular degeneration; 37.3% were aware of diabetic retinopathy; and 25% were not aware of any eye conditions. Approximately 75.8% and 58.3%, respectively, identified sunlight and family heritage as risk factors for losing vision; only half were aware of smoking risks on vision loss.
Conclusions and relevance: In this well-characterized survey across all US ethnic and racial groups, vision health was a priority with high support for ongoing research for vision and eye health. Many Americans were unaware of important eye diseases and their behavioral or familial risk factors. The consistency of these findings among the varying ethnic/racial groups underscores the importance of educating the public on eye health and mobilizing public support for vision research.