Using prevalence data, researchers have estimated the current total cost of visual impairment globally to be around $3 trillion, with the potential to increase to $3.5 trillion by 2020.
"Based on the current projections, the financial expenditures associated with vision loss will cost the world $3.5 trillion by 2020," Keith D. Gordon, PhD, said in an AMD Alliance International webinar during a presentation on findings from a study aimed at determining the best estimate of the global impact of vision loss.
Researchers looked at prevalence rates for mild vision impairment (visual acuity between 6/12 and 6/18), moderate vision impairment (visual acuity between 6/18 and 6/60) and blindness (visual acuity worse than 6/60) in each World Health Organization sub-region population.
"We found that the total global cost of vision loss was $3 trillion [in 2010]. This amount is about $434 for every person on the planet, or about $4,000 for every person who has vision impairment," Dr. Gordon said.
In particular, the study looked at the global costs for two eye conditions: uncorrected refractive error and age-related macular degeneration. Uncorrected refractive error was estimated to cost the world approximately $1.6 trillion, whereas AMD was estimated to cost approximately $300 billion, according to Dr. Gordon.
"This is a message we can give to governments around the world and use as an argument if nothing else works," Dr. Gordon said. "If the human side of it doesn't work, the financial side should ring true."
The amount of money that could be saved with the implementation of national vision health plans to better address preventable vision loss is staggering, according to Dr. Gordon.
"We know about 75% of vision loss is either preventable or avoidable. Seventy-five percent of $3 trillion is $2.3 trillion," Dr. Gordon said. "If you could create a new country with an economy of $2.3 trillion, avoidable vision loss would be the sixth largest country in the world."
- Disclosure: Dr. Gordon has no relevant financial disclosures.