A comprehensive public survey, commissioned by Research!America and supported by Research to Prevent Blindness and the Alliance for Eye and Vision Research, has found that respondents from all ethnic and racial groups consider blindness as “the worst ailment that could happen to them, relative to losing memory, speech, hearing, or a limb.” The survey, conducted on a randomized sample of over 2,000 respondents, showed that 87.5% (95%CI, 84.5%-90%) of those surveyed believed that good vision is vital to overall health, while 47.4% (95%CI, 43.7%-51.1%) ranked vision loss as the most feared health outcome. The study additionally highlighted separate independent assessments indicating that the economic burden of vision loss and blindness in the US may increase to over $700 billion dollars by the year 2050.
The online survey used nation-wide panels of adults who had previously signed up for public opinion research but also consisted of offline recruitment, telephone surveys, radio announcements and postal invitations in order to maximise the diversity of respondents and the representativeness of the final sample. When asked which disease was feared most, the loss of sight was ranked highest across the US and appeared as either the first or second ranking in each racial/ ethnic group. In some sub-groups blindness came second only to cancer while 24% of white respondents ranked only Alzheimer’s disease ahead of blindness as the worst ailment. The survey publication additionally stated that, “most Americans across all ethnic and racial groups describe losing eyesight as having the greatest impact on their daily life. “
In terms of awareness of major eye disorders and their risk factors, 65.8% (95%CI, 61.9%-69.5%) reported awareness of cataract or glaucoma (63.4%; 95%CI, 59.5%-67.2%) while only half of respondents reported awareness of age-related macular degeneration (AMD). White respondents appeared more likely to be aware of AMD (59.1%; 95% CI, 54.5%-63.6%) compared with 33.2% of Asian respondents, 32.1% of African American respondents, and 26.8% of Hispanic respondents). Awareness of diabetic retinopathy (DR) appeared to be lowest across all groups surveyed (37.3%; 95% CI, 33.8%-40.8%) and was particularly low among Hispanic respondents (26.8% (95% CI, 21.9%-32.4%). Across the full survey a quarter of all respondents were not aware of any of the conditions – cataract, glaucoma, AMD or DR. In respect of awareness of the risk factors for vision impairment, there was wide variation in the results. Over three quarters of all respondents (75.8%(95%CI, 72.2%-79.1%) were of the view that excessive sunlight, or UV from the sun, was a risk factor for eye disease, while genetics as a risk factor was the second highest (58.3%; 95% CI, 54.4%-62.0%). From analysis of all the data collated spanning a broad range of questions among a multiethnic sample of Americans, the authors concluded that there was clear support for “resource allocation dedicated to the research for prevention of vision loss.”