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Nearly 12 million Australians (53.7% of the total population) have one or more long-term eye conditions, based on self-reported data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) 2011–12 National Health Survey (NHS). This includes:

  • 6.2 million with hyperopia (long-sightedness)
  • 5.2 million with myopia (short-sightedness)
  • 1.3 million with astigmatism (blurred vision)
  • 882,000 with presbyopia (farsightedness)
  • 450,000 with colour blindness
  • 371,000 with cataract
  • 196,000 with macular degeneration
  • 131,000 with blindness (complete and partial)

Long-term eye conditions are most common among those aged 55 and over, affecting 94.9% of people in this age group (Figure 1). They are least common among people aged 0–14 (11.3%). Females experience a higher prevalence of long-term eye conditions than males (55.7% and 48.2% respectively).

For eye health definitions see the Eye health glossary.

Figure 1: Prevalence of long-term eye conditions, 2011–12

Vertical bar chart showing for (males, females); age group (0-14 to all ages) on the x axis; per cent (0 to 100) on the y axis.

Source: AIHW analysis of unpublished ABS Australian Health Survey, 2011–12 (National Health Survey Component) (see source Table 1).

Trends

According to the 2011–12 NHS (ABS 2012) there has been a slight increase in the prevalence of both long-sightedness (from 22.4% to 26.4%) and short-sightedness (from 20.9% to 22.9%) since 2001 (Figure 2), that is not just due to the ageing of the population. Eyeglasses are often used to correct long- and short-sightedness. Nearly half (49.5%) of the Australian population wears glasses or contact lenses.

Figure 2: Trends in prevalence of long- and short-sightedness

Stacked line chart showing for (long-sightedness; short-sightedness); year (2001 to 2011-12) on the x axis; per cent (0 to 30) on the y axis.

Source: ABS 2012, Table 1.3. (see source Table 2).

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people

According to the 2012–13 Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Survey (AATSIHS), compared with non-Indigenous Australians, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people were:

  • 2.6 times as likely to report having complete or partial blindness (Figure 3) and
  • 1.4 times as likely to report having a cataract(s).

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people experience higher rates of preventable blindness and vision loss than other Australians. Of the vision loss experienced by Indigenous Australians, 94% is preventable or treatable, and blindness from cataract is about 12 times as high among Indigenous adults as in other Australian adults (Taylor et al. 2010).

Figure 3: Prevalence of blindness by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander status, 2012–13

Vertical bar chart showing for (Indigenous; non-Indigenous); males, females, total on the x axis; per cent (0 to 3) on the y axis.

Source: ABS 2013, Table 5.3 (see source Table 3).


Source tables

Table 1: Prevalence of long-term eye conditions by age and sex, 2011–12
Sex Age group (years)
0–14
Age group (years)
15–34
Age group (years)
35–54
Age group (years)
55–74
Age group (years)
75+
Age group (years)
All ages(a)
Males
% 11.0 28.1 59.7 94.0 94.4 48.2
95% CI(b) 9.3–12.6 25.8–30.5 58–61.3 92.3–95.6 91.5–97.4 47.3–49.2
Females
% 11.3 43.2 69.0 95.6 95.8 55.7
95% CI(b) 9.4–13.3 40.7–45.7 67.0–71.1 94.4–96.9 94.0–97.6 54.7–56.7
Total
% 11.3 35.6 64.5 94.9 94.4 52.0
95% CI(b) 9.9–12.7 33.9–37.3 63.1–65.8 94.0–95.8 92.6–96.2 51.3–52.7
  1. Rates for all ages are age-standardised to the Australian population as at 30 June 2001.
  2. Shows the lower and upper limits of confidence interval. We can be 95% confident that the true value is within this interval.

Source: AIHW analysis of unpublished ABS Australian Health Survey, 2011–12 (National Health Survey Component).

Table 2: Trends in long- and short-sightedness, 2001 to 2011–12
Visual impairment 2001 2004–05 2007–08 2011–12
Long-sightedness
% 22.4 26.3 24.5 26.4
95% CI(a) 21.8–23.0 25.7–26.9 23.7–25.3 25.7–27.1
Short-sightedness
% 20.9 21.8 22.2 22.9
95% CI(a) 20.4–21.4 21.2–22.4 21.5–22.9 22.1–23.7
  1. Shows the lower and upper limits of confidence interval. We can be 95% confident that the true value is within this interval.

Note: Rates are age-standardised to the Australian population as at 30 June 2001.

Source: ABS 2013, Table 5.3.

Table 3: Prevalence of blindness by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander status and sex, 2012–13
Indigenous status Males Females All
Indigenous
Persons ('000) 3.4 2.3 5.7
%(a) 1.7 1.0 1.4
95% CI(b) 0.8–2.6 0.5–1.5 0.9–1.9
Non-Indigenous
Persons ('000) 69.2 54.5 123.7
%(a) 0.6 0.5 0.5
95% CI(b) 0.4–0.8 0.3–0.7 0.4–0.6
Rate ratio(c) 2.8 2.2 2.6
  1. Proportions are displayed in percentages and are age-standardised to the Australian population as at 30 June 2001.
  2. Shows the lower and upper limits of confidence interval. We can be 95% confident that the true value is within this interval.
  3. Rate ratio of the Indigenous rate to the non-Indigenous rate.

Notes:

  1. Data for non-Indigenous people are for 2011–12, from the Australian Health Survey 2011–13.
  2. The rate ratio is calculated by dividing the age standardised rate for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people by the age standardised rate for non-Indigenous people.

Source: ABS, 2012–13 National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Survey.


References

  1. ABS (Australian Bureau of Statistics) 2012. Australian Health Survey: First Results, 2011–12. ABS cat. no. 4364.0.55.001. Canberra: ABS.
  2. ABS 2013. Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Survey: First Results, Australia, 2012–13. ABS cat. no. 4727.0.55.001. Canberra: ABS.
  3. Australian Institute of Health and Welfare 2011. Eye health in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. Cat. no. IHW 49. Canberra: AIHW.
  4. Taylor HR, Xie J, Fox SS, Dunn RA, Arnold A-L & Keeffe JE 2010. The prevalence and causes of vision loss in Indigenous Australians: the National Indigenous Eye Health Survey. Medical Journal of Australia 192:312–8.
  5. Taylor HR 2009. National Indigenous Eye Health Survey-Minum Barreng (Tracking Eyes). Melbourne: Indigenous Eye Health Unit, Melbourne School of Population Health in collaboration with the Centre for Eye Research Australia and the Vision CRC.