Social and Economic Burden of Myopia

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Written by Optometrist Megan Lafferty, contact us to book an appointment with Megan.

Myopia, or nearsightedness, is a refractive error which affects over 1 billion people worldwide today1, causing the need for visual correction in the form of spectacles, contact lenses or even eye surgery. It is well established that progressive myopia can lead to pathological issues within the eye which may be sight threatening and detrimental to eye health and vision2, (see our article Myopia: Not Just a Refractive Error) however a topic which is not so commonly discussed is the various social and economic effects of myopia on individuals and societies. With the global prevalence of myopia rising at an alarming rate1, what issues could this pose on our quality of life, social behaviours and finances?

Social Effects

Educational Challenges:
Having myopia can affect a child’s academic performance3 as they may have difficulty seeing the board or reading materials in class. This could potentially lead to lower educational attainment and challenges in future career advancement if left unaddressed or untreated.
Psychological Impact:
On a more personal level, according to the WHO4, mental health issues have been on the rise in recent years and studies have shown that myopia may also contribute to greater psychological stress and anxiety in adolescents compared to those without vision defects5. Furthermore, it is clear that myopia can consequently lead to not only blurred vision but vision loss due to a number of associated eye conditions2 and there are also links between visual impairment and depression rates6. This means having myopia may not only affect eyesight but our overall mental health and well-being.
Limited Participation in Sports:
Some sports may be challenging for individuals with myopia, particularly those that require clear distance vision such as soccer or tennis. This could limit participation levels or foster insecurity particularly in some children if they perform poorly due to unclear vision7. In recent years, contact lenses and Ortho-K have proven a great option in these circumstances but it is important they are properly fitted under the guidance of an eye care professional.
Social Isolation:
People with myopia may experience feelings of social isolation, especially if their vision impairment hinders their ability to participate in certain activities or social occasions. This could affect an individuals’ emotional well-being as well as their social relationships. Rates of loneliness are also consistently higher in those with vision impairment.8
In some societies, wearing glasses may carry the stereotype of making an individual looking “more intelligent”, however in others, some may face negative stigma and social biases associated with it, especially for children. Studies show that children who wear glasses feel worse about themselves9 and are more likely to be victims of bullying10 which could affect their self-esteem and confidence levels.

Economic Effects

Productivity Impact:
Having vision problems can affect work productivity, especially in jobs that require prolonged use of screens or detailed visual tasks11. Uncorrected vision issues or simply having an incorrect prescription may lead to errors and decreased work efficiency. Projecting this onto a wider scale, a recent study showed South East Asia had the greatest potential decrease in global economic productivity due to visual impairment resulting from untreated myopia and that the cost of that burden far exceeds the cost of myopia correction12. Meaning it is crucial to have myopia tested and treated as early as possible to address and mitigate these potential unwanted consequences before they escalate into a more significant issue.
Employment Opportunities:
In certain professions, having clear vision is critical. Therefore, jobs that require excellent visual acuity, such as pilots or surgeons, may be less accessible to individuals with uncorrected severe myopia. As myopes face increased likelihood of developing sight threatening eye conditions2, the resulting visual impairment may also affect an individual’s daily work responsibilities. This impact could extend beyond occupations that demand flawless vision, such as the ones mentioned earlier, to include those that are still somewhat visually demanding, for example driver or IT worker.
Impact on Workforce Diversity:
If myopia disproportionately affects certain demographic groups, i.e. higher prevalence in Asian countries13, it may contribute to disparities in the workforce. For example, in general career selection or, if access to eye care is limited in certain communities, those individuals may face additional challenges in the job market and be underrepresented.
Economic Burden:
Myopia is associated with significant financial burden in Singapore14. Treating myopia, whether through corrective lenses or surgeries, can impose a financial strain on individuals and healthcare systems. Regular eye exams, prescription updates, and potential surgical interventions all contribute to healthcare costs and with the rates of myopia increasing, there is a tremendous impact on healthcare expenditure. In Singapore, the total cost was estimated at around $959 million (SGD) per year15 in 2013. Nowadays it could be significantly more.
Increased Demand for Vision Correction Products:
The prevalence of myopia may drive demand for more vision correction products, such as glasses and contact lenses. Recently, there has been a particular focus on developing technologies aimed at controlling myopia. (See our article “A Comprehensive Guide to Myopia Control”) This creates a market for these products and services promoting their technological advancement which could contribute to the wider economy and benefit the community if these efforts reach a broader population and remain affordable and accessible.


Overall, myopes may experience a diminished quality of life due to a range of social and economic influences which can affect mental health and well-being, as well as financial potential. However, it’s important to note that the impact of myopia can vary based on factors such as the severity of the condition, an individual’s access to healthcare, and societal attitudes toward vision correction. As myopia rates escalate, the chances of developing vision impairments due to myopia-associated conditions is also likely to increase. This has the potential to exacerbate these social and economic issues, especially here in South East Asia. Regular eye examinations, early intervention, and appropriate treatment can help reduce the burden. Additionally, ongoing advancements in myopia control technologies show great promise in slowing myopia progression and therefore could hopefully mitigate some of these effects in the future.


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