Purpose: To estimate the annual loss of productivity from blindness and moderate to severe visual impairment (MSVI) in the population aged >50 years in the European Union (EU).
Methods: We estimated the cost of lost productivity using three simple models reported in the literature based on (1) minimum wage (MW), (2) gross national income (GNI), and (3) purchasing power parity-adjusted gross domestic product (GDP-PPP) losses. In the first two models, assumptions included that all individuals worked until 65 years of age, and that half of all visual impairment cases in the >50-year age group would be in those aged between 50 and 65 years. Loss of productivity was estimated to be 100% for blind individuals and 30% for those with MSVI. None of these models included direct medical costs related to visual impairment.
Results: The estimated number of blind people in the EU population aged >50 years is ~1.28 million, with a further 9.99 million living with MSVI. Based on the three models, the estimated cost of blindness is €7.81 billion, €6.29 billion and €17.29 billion and that of MSVI €18.02 billion, €24.80 billion and €39.23 billion, with their combined costs €25.83 billion, €31.09 billion and €56.52 billion, respectively. The estimates from the MW and adjusted GDP-PPP models were generally comparable, whereas the GNI model estimates were higher, probably reflecting the lack of adjustment for unemployment.
Conclusion: The cost of blindness and MSVI in the EU is substantial. Wider use of available cost-effective treatment and prevention strategies may reduce the burden significantly.
Keywords: Blindness; direct costs; productivity loss; visual impairment.