Two in three Aussies over 40 skipping crucial eye tests: new research

New research commissioned by Specsavers has revealed that as many as two in three Australians over the age of 40 are currently experiencing a problem with their eyes but failing to get their eyes checked by an optometrist.

The research was based on a YouGov survey conducted in May 2018 amongst a nationally representative sample of 1,030 Australians aged 40 and over. One in five (21%) respondents reported they could not see things in the distance as well as they used to, whilst a third (30%) reported keeping concerns to themselves about not being able to see things as well close up. Other common concerns included bright lights dazzling more than they used to (18%), glasses or contact lenses not seeming strong enough anymore (16%), and black spots or lines floating around their vision (16%).

Of the respondents, 63% were experiencing a problem with their eyes that they hadn’t spoken to an optometrist or healthcare professional about, with 3% reporting they had never had an eye test. Lack of time (24%), cost concerns (17%), and a belief that there was nothing wrong with their eyes (16%) were among the main reasons why respondents had not had a full eye test in the past two years, even though more than half of the cohort (53%) thought it was likely they would develop an eye disease such as glaucoma, macular degeneration, diabetic eye disease or cataracts.

Specsavers Head of Optometry Dr Ben Ashby said, “It is very concerning to see the number of people over the age of 40 that aren’t getting their eyes tested regularly. In the past two years, four million Australians over the age of 45 have had a comprehensive eye test through Medicare, meaning as many as 58% are not following the industry recommendation of having their eyes tested at least every two years.”

To encourage Australians to prioritise their eye health in July, which is Eye Health Month, Specsavers has teamed up with TV icon Kerri-Anne Kennerley.

“I’ve always been aware of the importance of eye health, not only because of the issues I’ve had with my own eyes but also because I’ve seen how eye diseases can affect your life. That’s why I’m a huge advocate for having regular eye tests,” Kerri-Anne explained.

Kerri-Anne had lens replacement surgery to correct her vision and is now living with astigmatism. Her mother also experienced vision loss from both macular degeneration and cataracts.

“…I’ve seen the effects of these diseases first-hand,” Kerri-Anne stated. “Seeing how they have affected [my mother’s] quality of life has been extremely difficult, and I know that if detected sooner, a lot of her vision loss could have been prevented. It shocks me that people underestimate the importance of regular eye tests, with so many of these conditions having no symptoms. Whether you wear glasses or have perfect vision, everyone should get a check-up every couple of years because early detection and treatment can mean the difference between keeping and losing your sight.”

Dr Ashby said, “In this day and age, we shouldn’t be seeing people unnecessarily losing their vision but we are because eye health is just not a priority in the same way other health conditions like heart disease and cancer are. There is a worldwide issue with people not understanding the crucial importance of preventive eye care. We want people to stop underestimating the importance of eye tests and start including them as part of their general health checks.”