Vision Health Disparities in the United States by Race/Ethnicity, Education, and Economic Status: Findings From Two Nationally Representative Surveys

American Journal of Ophthalmology (Impact Factor: 3.87). 12/2012; 154(6):S53–S62.e1. DOI: 10.1016/j.ajo.2011.08.045


To assess vision health disparities in the United States by race/ethnicity, education, and economic status.

Cross-sectional, nationally representative samples.

We used national survey data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) and the National Health Interview Survey (NHIS). Main outcome measures included, from NHANES, age-related eye diseases (ie, age-related macular degeneration [AMD], cataract, diabetic retinopathy [DR], glaucoma) and from NHIS, eye care use (ie, eye doctor visits and cannot afford eyeglasses when needed) among those with self-reported visual impairment. The estimates were age- and sex-standardized to the 2000 US Census population. Linear trends in the estimates were assessed by weighted least squares regression.

Non-Hispanic whites had a higher prevalence of AMD and cataract surgery than non-Hispanic blacks, but a lower prevalence of DR and glaucoma (all P < .001 in NHANES 2005-2008). From 1999 to 2008, individuals with less education (ie, high school) and lower income (poverty income ratio [PIR] <1.00 vs ≥4.00) were consistently less likely to have had an eye care visit in the past 12 months compared with their counterparts (all P < .05). During this period, inability to afford needed eyeglasses increased among non-Hispanic whites and Hispanics (trend P = .004 and P = .007; respectively), those with high school education (trend P = .036), and those with PIR 1.00-1.99 (trend P < .001).

Observed vision health disparities suggest a need for educational and innovative interventions among socioeconomically disadvantaged groups.

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