Newly Published Data Adopted as Official WHO-Recognized Estimates for the Prevalence of Blindness and Vision Impairment

A paper* published in the Lancet Global Health journal estimates that there were 36 million people who were blind. Further, 217 million people live with severe or moderate visual impairment (MSVI). In total, 253 million people were living with visual impairment in 2015. It also estimates that 1.1 billion people have near-vision impairment—a condition that can be corrected with spectacles.

The paper, a project of the Vision Loss Expert Group (VLEG) of the Global Vision Database (GVD), provides the latest global estimates of the prevalence of blindness and MSVI in the world. By analysing data from 1990 to 2015, the VLEG have employed a sophisticated methodology to produce these detailed estimates, which also includes projections to 2020 for the first time. (The overall goal of the GVD is to develop and deploy new and improved evidence on the prevalence of blindness and vision impairment and its causes, on intervention coverage, to inform and influence global priorities and programs.)

Working with the World Health Organization, the VLEG tracks the change in cause-specific prevalence of vision loss over time, reporting the reduction in age-standardized blindness prevalence over more than two decades.

Key Findings:

  • 36 million people who are blind
  • 217 million people with severe or moderate visual impairment (distance)
  • 253 million people visually impaired (in 2015)
  • 1.1 billion people with near-vision impairment
  • The prevalence of visual impairment has dropped from 4.58% in 1990 to 3.38% in 2015
  • 89% of visually impaired people live in low and middle-income countries
  • 55% of visually impaired people are women

*Magnitude, temporal trends, and projections of the global prevalence of blindness and distance and near vision impairment: a systematic review and meta-analysis

Lighthouse Guild President & CEO Alan R. Morse, JD, PhD, is a member of the VLEG.