Study Projects Significant Rise in Global Prevalence of Myopia and High Myopia

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NEW YORK—A group of medical researchers expect that more than one-half of the world’s population will have myopia or high myopia by 2050. The projection is based on a meta-analysis of data from 145 studies (dating back to 1995) and covering 2.1 million participants.

The findings of this meta-analysis and the projections were published earlier this year by the research group in the journal Ophthalmology. The authors of the journal article included the late Brien Holden, a champion for research and the development of new and better vision care technology and products.

In the article, the authors noted that by 2050 they expect roughly one-half of the world’s population will have myopia and an additional 10 percent of the population will have high myopia.

A year ago, the Brien Holden Vision Institute worked with the World Health Organization to produce a comprehensive report on the impact of the increasing prevalence of myopia and high myopia. This report can be read here.

According to the National Eye Institute (NEI), high myopia is a severe form of myopia and is characterized by the continued growth of the eyeball, which becomes very long from front to back. In the Ophthalmology article, the authors’ projected increase in myopia cases would represent a two-fold increase in myopia prevalence (from 22 percent of the population in 2000) and a five-fold increase in high myopia prevalence (from 2 percent of the population in 2000).

In terms of actual people, the projections would mean that roughly 4.8 billion people around the world will have myopia by 2050. This compares with 1.4 billion people who had myopia in 2000.

According to the authors, the global increases in myopia and high myopia are “widely driven by environmental factors and changes in lifestyle,” including decreased time outdoors to more near work activity. Genetic predisposition also plays a role, the article noted.

The authors said their projections “assume that these lifestyle changes will continue to spread with increasing urbanization and development. Accelerated changes, or reversal of recent trends, would be expected to increase or decrease future prevalence from our predictions, respectively.”

“Based on our projections and assuming the proportion of those with high myopia who go on to experience vision loss resulting from pathologic myopia remains the same, the number of people with vision loss resulting from high myopia would increase seven-fold from 2000 to 2050, and myopia would become a leading cause of permanent blindness,” the researchers projected.

In addition, the authors noted that by 2050 the age range of myopia will spread, with those from 10 years to 79 years being affected. The high-income countries of the Asia-Pacific are expected to have a significantly higher prevalence of myopia, the researchers noted.