Global Prevalence of Myopia and High
Myopia and Temporal Trends from 2000
Brien A. Holden, PhD, DSc,
Timothy R. Fricke, MSc,
David A. Wilson, PhD,
Monica Jong, PhD,
Kovin S. Naidoo, PhD,
Padmaja Sankaridurg, PhD,
Tien Y. Wong, MD,
Thomas J. Naduvilath, PhD,
Serge Resnikoff, MD
Purpose: Myopia is a common cause of vision loss, with uncorrected myopia the leading cause of distance
vision impairment globally. Individual studies show variations in the prevalence of myopia and high myopia be-
tween regions and ethnic groups, and there continues to be uncertainty regarding increasing prevalence of
Design: Systematic review and meta-analysis.
Methods: We performed a systematic review and meta-analysis of the prevalence of myopia and high
myopia and estimated temporal trends from 2000 to 2050 using data published since 1995. The primary data
were gathered into 5-year age groups from 0 to 100, in urban or rural populations in each country, standardized
to deﬁnitions of myopia of 0.50 diopter (D) or less and of high myopia of 5.00 D or less, projected to the year
2010, then meta-analyzed within Global Burden of Disease (GBD) regions. Any urban or rural age group that
lacked data in a GBD region took data from the most similar region. The prevalence data were combined with
urbanization data and population data from United Nations Population Department (UNPD) to estimate the
prevalence of myopia and high myopia in each country of the world. These estimates were combined with myopia
change estimates over time derived from regression analysis of published evidence to project to each decade
from 2000 through 2050.
Results: We included data from 145 studies covering 2.1 million participants. We estimated 1406 million
people with myopia (22.9% of the world population; 95% conﬁdence interval [CI], 932e1932 million [15.2%e
31.5%]) and 163 million people with high myopia (2.7% of the world population; 95% CI, 86e387 million [1.4%e
6.3%]) in 2000. We predict by 2050 there will be 4758 million people with myopia (49.8% of the world population;
3620e6056 million [95% CI, 43.4%e55.7%]) and 938 million people with high myopia (9.8% of the world pop-
ulation; 479e2104 million [95% CI, 5.7%e19.4%]).
Conclusions: Myopia and high myopia estimates from 2000 to 2050 suggest signiﬁcant increases in prev-
alences globally, with implications for planning services, including managing and preventing myopia-related
ocular complications and vision loss among almost 1 billion people with high myopia. Ophthalmology 2016;-
:1e7ª2016 by the American Academy of Ophthalmology. This is an open access article under the CC BY-NC-
ND license (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0/).
Supplemental material is available at www.aaojournal.org.
In 2010, it was estimated that uncorrected refractive error
was the most common cause of distance vision impairment,
affecting 108 million persons, and the second most common
cause of blindness globally.
The economic burden of
uncorrected distance refractive error, largely caused by
myopia, was estimated to be US$202 billion per annum.
There is a substantive economic argument for eliminating
uncorrected myopia and other refractive errors.
However, myopia brings further vision challenges
because high myopia increases the risk of pathologic ocular
changes such as cataract, glaucoma, retinal detachment,
and myopic macular degeneration, all of which can cause
irreversible vision loss.
In some communities with a
high prevalence of myopia, myopic macular degeneration
has been found to be the most frequent cause of
Myopic macular degeneration has
been found to cause 12.2% of vision impairment in Japan
(approximately 200 000 people).
There remain 2 major gaps in the literature. First, indi-
vidual studies suggest wide variation in the prevalence of
myopia between different regions and ethnic groups.
example, the prevalence of myopia is more than 2 times
higher among East Asians than similarly aged white
Second, the prevalence of myopia in different
countries seems to be increasing, and most dramatically
among younger people in East Asia.
12016 by the American Academy of Ophthalmology
This is an open access article under the CC BY-NC-ND license
(http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0/). Published by Elsevier Inc.
of vision impairment from uncorrected myopia and
irreversible vision loss from myopia-related complications
make accurate global estimates of the prevalence and tem-
poral trends critical for planning care and services. How-
ever, there are no precise estimates of the global prevalence
of myopia or for projected temporal changes over the next
Studies, Databases, and Data Organization
We performed a systematic search and review of the prevalence of
myopia and high myopia using data published since 1995, sum-
marized in Figure 1. We searched PubMed (National Library of
Medicine) on January 10, 2015, for publications using the
following MeSH (Medical Subject Heading) terms: myopia
AND prevalence and refractive error AND prevalence. The
search was restricted to articles published after January 1, 1995,
and was performed on all available articles regardless of the
original language of publication. The search yielded 1656 and
2632 articles relating to myopia and refractive error, respectively.
The abstract of each publication was reviewed and articles that
were population-based surveys were included. Surveys were
excluded if they did not specify the number of eligible participants
or participation rate, or if data were from a speciﬁc population that
could not be generalized to the population as a whole. We rejected
8 articles that did not specify a deﬁnition of myopia. To cover
regions without data, some additional articles were sourced through
key informant advice and from reference lists of articles found
through PubMed. A full list of the 145 studies is included in
Appendix 1 (available at www.aaojournal.org).
Country-speciﬁc population data for each decade from 2000
through 2050, in 5-year age groups from 0 to 100, were drawn
mostly from the United Nations World Population Prospects.
Population data from the United States Census Bureau were used
for a small number of low-population states omitted from the
available United Nations data.
Studies have suggested that myopia rates differ in urban
compared with rural communities that are otherwise similar.
We therefore obtained separate urban and rural myopia preva-
lences where possible and disaggregated country-level populations
into urban and rural numbers sourced from the United Nations
World Urbanization Prospects.
Countries were grouped into the 21 Global Burden of Disease
The country-speciﬁc urban and rural population
data were combined with the corresponding prevalence data in
each 5-year age group to calculate the number of people with
Figure 1. Flow diagram summarizing the systematic search and review process for identifying myopia prevalence evidence globally. MeSH ¼medical subject
Ophthalmology Volume -, Number -, Month 2016
myopia. The numbers of people with myopia in each age group in
rural and urban areas of each country then were aggregated to
obtain regional totals.
The deﬁnitions of myopia and high myopia vary across the selected
prevalence studies. Of the 145 articles included in this study, the
most common deﬁnition of myopia was spherical equivalent
of 0.50 diopter (D) or less (58.7%), with 29.0% using less
than 0.50 D, 5.0% using 1.00 D or less or less than 1.00 D
(all studies of adults), 2.9% using 0.75 D or less or less
than 0.75 D, and 3.6% using 0.25 D or less or less than 0.25
D. Only 59 studies deﬁned and measured high myopia, with 30.5%
deﬁning it as 6.00 D or less, 30.5% deﬁning it as less than 6.00
D, 35.6% deﬁning it as 5.00 D or less or less than 5.00 D, 1.7%
deﬁning it as 8.00 D or less, and 1.7% deﬁning it as 3.00 D or
We standardized to a spherical equivalent of 0.50 D or less for
myopia because it was the most commonly used deﬁnition in
published prevalence studies, is beyond refraction measurement
error, and captures children at the start of their progression. We
standardized to a spherical equivalent of 5.00 D or less for
high myopia because it is used commonly, identiﬁes people at
higher risk of pathologic myopia, and if uncorrected, causes
vision impairment at least equivalent to the World Health
The relationship between prevalence and deﬁnition was
analyzed using all articles providing prevalence at 2 or more cut-
offs for myopia or high myopia. All prevalence data were stan-
dardized to myopia and high myopia deﬁnitions of 0.50 D or less
and 5.00 D or less, respectively, using linear regressions speciﬁc
to regional and dioptric level (see Supplemental Material, part 1,
available at www.aaojournal.org).
Meta-analysis and Extrapolation
Meta-analysis of the prevalence of myopia and high myopia within
each age group of each GBD region, using the standardized
myopia deﬁnitions and a standardized time point of 2010, was
performed using Comprehensive Meta-Analysis software version 3
(Biostat, Englewood, NJ). A logit random effects model was used
to combine studies within each age group and region. The logit
prevalence was deﬁned as log(p/(1 ep)), where pis the prevalence
within each age group. The study-to-study variance (
) was not
assumed to be the same for all age groups within the region,
indicating that this value was computed within age groups and was
not pooled across age groups. The inverse of the variance was used
to compute relative weights. The logit prevalence and its standard
error were used to compute the 95% conﬁdence limits, which
then was transformed to the estimated prevalence and its corre-
sponding limits using the formula E
prevalence) þ1), where E¼Euler’s number.
Age-speciﬁc regional meta-analysis results were extrapolated to
GBD regions lacking data in any speciﬁc age or urbanization
group, with extrapolations based on regional similarities in ur-
banization, Human Development Index (HDI), racial proﬁles,
culture, education systems, health systems, and other similarities.
Data gaps within regions also were ﬁlled via nearest neighbor
linear interpolation between age groups up to a maximum of 20
years between groups.
Projections across Decades
Longitudinal and repeated cross-sectional studies have shown
increasing prevalence of myopia.
We analyzed change
in myopia prevalence over time against prevalence of myopia
¼0.86), rate of urbanization (R
¼0.07), and change in HDI
¼0.69). The relationship between change in myopia over time
and prevalence of myopia was the strongest, following the formula:
Percentage annual prevalence change
where E¼Euler’s number. There were 2 exceptions to using
this percentage annual change formula. First, because there were
no data for prevalence less than 28.3%, we took the conservative
approach of using a constant 3.8% change/year for all prevalences
less than 28.3%. Second, Vitale et al
provide a clear indication
that the effect decreases at ages younger than 20 years. Fitting a
2-part linear function to their data suggested adjusting the calcu-
lated annual change in myopia ﬁgure by a factor of 0.5 in the 10- to
19-year-old age groups, 0.25 in the 5- to 9-year-old age group, and
0 in the 0- to 4-year-old age group. The prevalence of myopia in
each decade was calculated by adjusting the prevalence ﬁgure by a
cumulative change equal to Prevalence (1 þ(Percentage annual
(number of years)).
Three studies showed a similar increase in prevalence of high
myopia over time. Given the sparse data, we used a simple average
annual prevalence change from these studies (3.26% per
Additionally, because the evidence trended to less
annual change as prevalence increased between 15% and 30% and
there was no annual change data for high myopia prevalence of
30% or more, we generated a logarithmic decay function that
reduced to 0 when the prevalence reached 100%. This formula was
used when the prevalence of high myopia was more than 30%:
Annual change ¼2:237 lnðprevalenceÞþ10:283;
where ln ¼natural log. Data from Vitale et al
that the annual change in high myopia prevalence would be less in
age groups younger than 20 years. Using a similar process as in the
myopia case, the annual change in high myopia prevalence was
adjusted by a factor of 0.4 in the 15- to 19-year-old age group,
0.3 in the 10- to 14-year-old age group, 0.2 in the 5- to 9-year-old
age group, and 0.1 in the 0- to 4-year-old age group. The changing
proportion of people living in urban versus rural situations in each
decade was sourced from the United Nations.
In addition to the 95% conﬁdence limits calculated in the meta-
analysis of prevalence data, uncertainty in future population pro-
jections was represented by the high- and low-fertility population
projections from the United Nations.
Published evidence indicates that myopia is common and increasing
over time, with apparent effects of race, location, and generation.
Racial effects were controlled by using studies as broadly repre-
sentative of a country’s population as possible and extrapolating
within GBD regions. Location effects were controlled by dis-
aggregating urban and rural populations and prevalence and
extrapolating based on HDI and GBD region. Generational
shifts were accommodated through our change over time method-
ology and were facilitated by maintaining 5-year age groups through
A summary of the original data from all 145 studies is given in
Appendix 2 (available at www.aaojournal.org). Figure 2 shows our
estimates of the total number of people with myopia globally. In
Holden et al Global Myopia Trends 2000e2050
2000, this was 1406 million (22.9% of the global population;
uncertainty interval, 932e1932 million [15.2%e31.5%]),
increasing to 1950 million in 2010 (28.3% of the global
population; 1422e2543 million [20.6%e36.9%]). This is
projected to increase to 2620 million in 2020 (34.0% of the
global population; uncertainty interval, 1976e3366 million
[26.2%e42.6%]), to 3361 million by 2030 (39.9% of the global
population; uncertainty interval, 2578e4217 million [32.3%e
47.5%]), to 4089 million by 2040 (45.2% of the global
population; uncertainty interval, 3145e5128 million [38.1%e
52.1%]), and to 4758 million by 2050 (49.8% of the global
population; uncertainty interval, 3620e6056 million [43.4%e
Regional differences are evident throughout the projection
period, as shown in Table 1. The high-income countries of Asia-
Paciﬁc begin with a signiﬁcantly higher prevalence of myopia
than any other region. East Asia, Southeast Asia, and the high-
income countries of North America close the gap to some extent
by 2050 because of a combination of ceiling effects in some age
groups, prevalence distribution across age groups, and changing
Figure 2 shows our estimates of the total number of people with
high myopia globally. This was 163 million in 2000 (2.7% of the
global population; uncertainty interval, 86e387 million [1.4%e
6.3%]), increasing to 277 million in 2010 (4.0% of the global
population; uncertainty interval, 153e589 million [2.2%e8.6%]).
This is projected to increase to 399 million in 2020 (5.2% of the
global population; uncertainty interval, 233e815 million [3.1%e
10.3%]), to 517 million by 2030 (6.1% of the global population;
uncertainty interval, 298e1082 million [3.7%e12.2%]), to 696
million by 2040 (7.7% of the global population; uncertainty
interval, 381e1518 million [4.6%e15.4%]), and to 938 million
by 2050 (9.8% of the global population; uncertainty interval,
479e2105 [5.7%e19.4%]). Regional differences are evident
throughout the projection period, as shown in Table 1.
Figure 3 shows the distribution of people with myopia and
prevalence of myopia across age groups. In 2000, the greatest
numbers of people with myopia were between 10 and 39 years
of age. However, our projections suggest that through both
cohort and age effects this distribution will spread by 2050, with
large numbers of people with myopia from 10 years of age all
the way through to 79 years of age.
Figure 2. Graph showing the number of people estimated to have myopia and high myopia for each decade from 2000 through 2050. Error bars represent
the 95% conﬁdence intervals.
Table 1. Prevalence of Myopia Estimated for Each Global Burden
of Disease Region between 2000 and 2050
Prevalence (%) in Each Decade
2000 2010 2020 2030 2040 2050
Andean Latin America 15.2 20.5 28.1 36.2 44.0 50.7
Asia-Paciﬁc, high income 46.1 48.8 53.4 58.0 62.5 66.4
Australasia 19.7 27.3 36.0 43.8 50.2 55.1
Caribbean 15.7 21.0 29.0 37.4 45.0 51.7
Central Africa 5.1 7.0 9.8 14.1 20.4 27.9
Central Asia 11.2 17.0 24.3 32.9 41.1 47.4
Central Europe 20.5 27.1 34.6 41.8 48.9 54.1
Central Latin America 22.1 27.3 34.2 41.6 48.9 54.9
East Africa 3.2 4.9 8.4 12.3 17.1 22.7
East Asia 38.8 47.0 51.6 56.9 61.4 65.3
Eastern Europe 18.0 25.0 32.2 38.9 45.9 50.4
North Africa and Middle East 14.6 23.3 30.5 38.8 46.3 52.2
North America, high income 28.3 34.5 42.1 48.5 54.0 58.4
Oceania 5.0 6.7 9.1 12.5 17.4 23.8
South Asia 14.4 20.2 28.6 38.0 46.2 53.0
Southeast Asia 33.8 39.3 46.1 52.4 57.6 62.0
Southern Africa 5.1 8.0 12.1 17.5 23.4 30.2
Southern Latin America 15.6 22.9 32.4 40.7 47.7 53.4
Tropical Latin America 14.5 20.1 27.7 35.9 43.9 50.7
West Africa 5.2 7.0 9.6 13.6 19.7 26.8
Western Europe 21.9 28.5 36.7 44.5 51.0 56.2
Global 22.9 28.3 33.9 39.9 45.2 49.8
Numbers and uncertainty are provided in the Supplemental Material
(available at www.aaojournal.org).
Ophthalmology Volume -, Number -, Month 2016
Our study estimates that myopia and high myopia will show
a signiﬁcant increase in prevalence globally, affecting nearly
5 billion people and 1 billion people, respectively, by 2050.
These have important implications for planning compre-
hensive eye care services, including refractive services such
as spectacles and managing and preventing myopic-related
ocular complications and vision loss among people with
The increasing prevalence of high myopia has already
been noted in some regions. Vitale et al
found an 8-fold
increase in high myopia (7.90 D) over 30 years, from
0.2% to 1.6%.
The level of high myopia in Asian countries
is considerably higher. In the study of college freshman in
Taiwan by Wang et al,
high myopia increased from 26%
of all myopia in 1988 to 40% of myopia in 2005. Lin
found that 21% of 18-year-old Taiwanese students
in 2000 had high myopia (<6.00 D) compared with 10.9%
The projected increases in myopia and high myopia are
widely considered to be driven by environmental factors
(nurture), principally lifestyle changes resulting from
a combination of decreased time outdoors and increased
near work activities, among other factors.
predisposition also seems to play a role, but cannot
explain the temporal trends observed over a short
Among environmental factors, so-called high-
pressure educational systems, especially at very young ages
in countries such as Singapore, Korea, Taiwan, and China,
may be a causative lifestyle change, as may the excessive
use of near electronic devices.
Other proposed causes
include light levels,
which may be directly related to
time outdoors, with peripheral hyperopia in the myopic
eye (corrected and uncorrected) encouraging axial
The global myopia in the year 2000
values in Figure 3, with the bulk of myopia in age groups
younger than 40 years, reﬂects the signiﬁcant lifestyle
changes for children and young people over the past 10 to
25 years, especially in the large population centers of Asia.
Our projections, based on existing data, assume that these
lifestyle changes will continue to spread with increasing
urbanization and development. Accelerated changes, or
reversal of recent trends, would be expected to increase or
decrease future prevalence from our predictions, respec-
tively. Our projections indicate that by 2050, 50% and 10%
of the world will have myopia and high myopia, respec-
tively, a 2-fold increase in myopia prevalence (from 22% in
2000) and a 5-fold increase in high myopia prevalence (from
2% in 2000). Higher amounts of myopia have the potential
to cause vision impairment by myopic macular degeneration
or its comorbidities, cataract, retinal detachment, and glau-
the risk of which increase with any increase in
myopia. Based on our projections and assuming the
proportion of those with high myopia who go on to
experience vision loss resulting from pathologic myopia
remains the same, the number of people with vision loss
resulting from high myopia would increase 7-fold from
2000 to 2050, and myopia would become a leading cause of
permanent blindness worldwide. This is a conservative es-
timate; Figure 3 shows not only that will there be more
people with myopia by 2050, but also that they will also
be older and more susceptible to the pathologic effects of
myopia than in 2000.
Our study design has some potential limitations. The ﬁrst
is the paucity of prevalence data in many countries and age
groups, across representative geographic areas, racial
groupings, and HDIs. This problem was greater for high
myopia than myopia. The further the primary data are
extrapolated, the greater the uncertainty of the estimates
Figure 3. Graph showing the distribution of people estimated to have myopia across age groups in 2000 and 2050.
Holden et al Global Myopia Trends 2000e2050
becomes. Second, many countries and age groups across
representative geographic areas, racial groupings, and
HDIs lacked data on the change in myopia, especially
high myopia, over time. Local effects on changes in myopia
over time are potentially lost when annual changes are
extrapolated across regions. However, Vitale et al
that the myopia and high myopia changes seen in African
Americans were very similar to those in European
Americans, suggesting that although environmental
changes are important, racial differences probably are not.
Third, projecting on the basis of current information has
the potential to miss varying changes over time. Fourth,
variations in the deﬁnition of myopia and high myopia in
the evidence base made it necessary to adjust each
prevalence we used to a standard deﬁnition, which
increases uncertainty. There are conﬂicting data on the
effect of gender on myopia prevalence. For example, Wu
found that girls in urban China were signiﬁcantly
more likely to have myopia than boys, whereas Hashemi
found the opposite to be true. With these sorts of
conﬂicts, it seems unlikely that there is a simple gender
effect on myopia development. There may be a more
complex gender effect, where differential access to,
encouragement to participate in, or choices with respect to
education, outdoor activities, light exposure, or a
combination thereof between boys and girls inﬂuences the
development of myopia. We believed that this kind of
gender effect was beyond the scope of this study, so we
did not disaggregate based on gender. Also, we used a
logarithmic decay function to estimate the future
prevalence of myopia, and thus it is possible that future
prevalence may have been overestimated, especially for
regions where the current prevalences are moderate to
low. However, given that there is an element of
uncertainty associated with estimating future prevalences,
regardless of the model or function used to derive
estimates, drawbacks are likely to exist. More relevant is
the clear evidence for a rising global prevalence of
myopia, and thus these estimates simply indicate that if it
continues on its present course, the future burden of
myopia is likely to be substantial.
Because of the relatively common nature of myopia,
even population studies with relatively small sample sizes
can offer useful information provided the samples are
representative. Other strengths include the large number of
good-quality studies that have been performed in the regions
that have both the highest prevalence of myopia and the
largest populations (for example, East Asia, Asia-Paciﬁc
high income, and South Asia), our clear deﬁnitions and
methods of standardizing source data, our analysis of the
change in myopia over time, and our methods of calculating
We have not taken into account the effect of myopia control
interventions that may take place between now and 2050.
These would aim to reduce substantially the prevalence of high
myopia. Interventions that sufﬁciently slow or delay myopia
have the potential to prevent an individual developing high
myopia, provided treatment is started early enough. Changes in
lifestyle, successive improvement, and the uptake of myopia
control could substantially reduce the number of people with
myopia and high myopia. The uptake of myopia control,
however, requires a strong evidencebase and a concerted effort
by government, education, and health systems.
In conclusion, our systematic review, meta-analysis, and
projections provide myopia and high myopia predictions
through 2050 and their distribution between GBD regions.
Our estimates and projections assimilate local, individual
studies into an improved global understanding of myopia
epidemiologic factors. Our methodology provides a basis
for validation of projections against new evidence as it
is published. If correct, our projections have signiﬁcant
implications for planning comprehensive eye care services
globally, which would need to cater to close to 1 billion
people with high myopia by 2050, 7.5 times more than in
2000. The beneﬁts of a multifaceted myopia control system
to buffer this scenario would be substantial.
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Footnotes and Financial Disclosures
Originally received: June 3, 2015.
Final revision: December 15, 2015.
Accepted: January 5, 2016.
Available online: ---.
Brien Holden Vision Institute, Sydney, Australia.
School of Optometry and Vision Science, University of New South
Wales, Sydney, Australia.
African Vision Research Institute, University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban,
Singapore Eye Research Institute, Singapore National Eye Center, Duke-
NUS Medical School, Singapore, Republic of Singapore.
The author(s) have no proprietary or commercial interest in any materials
discussed in this article.
Supported by the Brien Holden Vision Institute, Sydney, Australia.
Conception and design: Holden, Fricke, Wilson
Analysis and interpretation: Holden, Jong, Naidoo, Sankaridurg, Wong,
Data collection: Fricke, Wilson
Obtained funding: none
Overall responsibility: Holden, Fricke, Wilson, Naduvilath
Abbreviations and Acronyms:
D¼diopter; GBD ¼Global Burden of Disease; HDI ¼Human Devel-
Kovin S. Naidoo, PhD, Brien Holden Vision Institute, University of New
South Wales, Gate 14 Barker Street, Rupert Myers Building, 4th Floor,
Kensington, New South Wales 2052, Australia. E-mail: k.naidoo@
Holden et al Global Myopia Trends 2000e2050