A study published on May 19 in JAMA Ophthalmology says that the number of people with blindness and visual impairment in the US will double in 2050. The study’s researchers from the University of Southern California (USC) Roski Eye Institute says that non-Hispanic whites, older Americans, and women will be at most risk of suffering these conditions 35 years from now.

The risk of Hispanic groups will increase from 9.9 percent to 20.3 percent in 2050. Hispanic Americans will surpass black Americans who currently have the highest incidence of blindness and visual impairments with visual problems risks of up to 15.2 percent today to 16.3 percent in 2050.

The researchers explain that visual impairment issues include glaucoma, diabetic retinopathy, age-related macular degeneration, and cataracts. Apart from the vision problems, visual impairments can also cause physical health issues like diabetes and minor injuries from falling, as well as mental health problems like depression, social isolation, independence, and death.


Woman assisting a blind man. Credit: Anna Miller/Perkins School for the Blind

Moreover, the research team also found that Mississippi and Louisiana will have the highest per capita incidence of blindness in the US. On the other hand, visual impairments will be most prevalent among individuals per capita of those living in Florida and Hawaii.

The researchers recommend an early diagnosis through having an eye examination each year and better access to eye care. People will be spared from suffering these eye problems as well as the mental and physical health issues that come with it. The findings are from an assessment conducted over six major US cities. The data were gathered from male and female participants aged 40 and over.

“This study gives us a GPS for our nation’s future eye health,” adds the study’s principal investigator Rohit Varma. “Increased education and vision screenings are critical for both younger and older Americans, but especially women and minorities over age 40, to prevent vision impairment that can dramatically worsen their quality of life.”