Research shows ‘She’ll be right’ attitude putting sight at risk

New research has found that complacent attitudes towards seeking medical assistance for eye problems means one in five adults in Australia and New Zealand are putting their eye sight at risk.

A study commissioned by Specsavers and conducted by market research and data analytics firm YouGov in June 2019 found that while 91% of Australian adults and 89% of New Zealand adults had experienced a problem with their eyes, one in five would not seek medical assistance to address the issue. When asked why, almost half of all respondents said it was either because they did not think there was anything wrong with their eye health or that they would rather wait for the problem to fix itself.

Simon Kelly, Optometry Partner at Specsavers Runaway Bay in Queensland, said the research highlighted the ‘She’ll be right’ culture seen across both countries. He added that this attitude could potentially lead to serious eye problems, vision loss and blindness that otherwise might have been prevented through early detection.

“Most people are going to experience an eye problem like red eyes, itchy eyes, floaters or changes to vision in their lifetime and often there may be no larger problem associated with it,” Simon commented. “However, many common eye problems could also be early signs of more serious eye issues. For example, changes in vision could be the early signs of a sight-threatening condition such as macular degeneration; floaters or flashes of light could be symptoms of a retinal detachment; cloudy vision could be the early signs of a cataract; and red eye could be caused by a serious corneal ulcer which, if left untreated, could lead to permanent vision loss.”

The Australian research broke the ‘She’ll be right’ culture into subcategories and found that Millennials were the worst culprits, with almost 70% saying they would not seek any professional assistance for their eye problems. Baby Boomers were the most likely to seek professional help quickly, with 77% visiting an optometrist, doctor, pharmacist or hospital within a week for eye irritations or infections.

Another key reason for Australian adults not seeking medical assistance for an eye problem was the perceived cost of an appointment, with 25% of Millennials, 24% of Gen X and 14% of Baby Boomers saying that this kept them away from an optometrist, despite the fact that eye health checks with an optometrist are bulk-billed in Australia.

In New Zealand, the research showed that men were more likely to say they would rather wait to seek help until their eyes fixed themselves (26%) than women (18%). The data also revealed that New Zealanders are much more likely to treat eye infections or irritations with urgency than vision issues. More than two thirds (69%) of respondents said they would seek help for irritations or infections within a week, compared to just 44% for vision issues.

“Most people don’t realise that eye problems like conjunctivitis, inflamed eyes and gritty eyes can be treated by optometrists who are therapeutically qualified,” Simon noted.

Specsavers Australia & New Zealand recently released this research to increase awareness of these issues and to encourage the public to book an appointment with their local optometrist to check the health of their eyes.