1 in 10 people can’t remember the last time they went to the optician

June 2019

With global blindness set to triple by 2050, how can we take better care of our own eye health here in the UK?

Our newest research reveals that, for 45% of Britons, our sight is our most valuable sense – and yet more than half of us (53%) are not getting our eyes tested every two years, which is what opticians recommend. In fact, 85% of us don't feel like we know enough about our eye health: a worrying number when you consider the monumentally huge implications of losing your sight.

These figures come from our latest survey, released today. In light of the Vision Loss Expert Group report, which estimates that global blindness will triple by 2050, we spoke to 2000 people - including 578 parents – about how they take care of their eyesight, what they know about how children's vision develops, and their own eye health experiences.

Our survey highlighted a huge disparity in attitudes based on age. Those aged 55+ were more than twice as likely to get their eyes tested every two years (62%) when compared with 18-24 year olds (28%), and yet in a digital age, young people are at an increased risk of eye strain, caused by the blue light from screens.

But it is not just young people – across the age groups, we all need to be more aware of how to protect our sight, and more inclined to access the services the UK has to offer.

As Mr Larry Benjamin, consultant ophthalmic surgeon at Stoke Mandeville Hospital and one of our long-standing medical volunteers, says:

The results released today show that we need to do more to empower parents with the necessary facts to protect their children’s vision. In fact, just 15% of those surveyed said that they felt knowledgeable about eye health in general.

Mr Larry Benjamin

Consultant ophthalmic surgeon at Stoke Mandeville Hospital

Mr Larry Benjamin examines x-rays in the Strabismus ward

As an Orbis volunteer, Larry Benjamin has trained doctors around the world and seen first-hand the devastating consequences that an absence of eye care and knowledge can have on someone’s future. In the UK, we have many avenues open to us in order to keep our eyes healthy, not least the NHS. Others aren't so lucky. As he went on to say:

If people in developing countries are unable to seek help to have their cataract removed or receive a simple pair of glasses, adults and children can be plunged into poverty. We’re very lucky that we have the NHS to help us when we experience difficulties

Mr Larry Benjamin

Consultant ophthalmic surgeon at Stoke Mandeville Hospital

And yet, the parents of 0 – 18 year olds that we surveyed are particularly uninformed when it comes to their children’s sight. 78% were unaware that the NHS recommends children have their sight tested in reception (age 4-5) and almost one in five (18%) have never taken their child for an eye test. Only 13% of parents knew that glasses could be prescribed for children as young as 1 month old.

But while in the UK we have systems in place to help parents look after their children's eye health, in many of the areas where we work there is a serious lack of access to eye care. This can have lifelong repercussions. In some instances, it causes irreversible blindness – often simply because a condition is not caught in time - forcing children to drop out of school, damaging their future prospects and leaving them in the dark.

This is why we launched our See My Future appeal. Until 23rd June all donations will be doubled by the UK government, enabling Orbis to save the sight of twice as many adults and children across Africa and Asia.

Half of all childhood blindness is avoidable. Hopefully this survey will encourage people to get both their and their children’s eyes tested more often, something many parents in other parts of the world aren’t able to do as easily. And by supporting Orbis’s See My Future appeal, you could help prevent a life of unnecessary blindness. Just £5.50 doubled to £11 could provide two new pairs of glasses to children struggling to see in school. Thanks to the UK government’s Aid Match scheme, and the British public’s generosity, Orbis’s See My Future appeal will have twice the impact.

Mr Larry Benjamin

Consultant ophthalmic surgeon at Stoke Mandeville Hospital

Save a child's sight. Change a child's future.