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Cost of Blindness

Ophthalmic Epidemiology has recently published two simple cost models developed by Eckert et al.1 that estimate the annual loss of economic productivity from blindness and moderate to severe visual impairment (MSVI) based on minimum wage (MW) and gross national income (GNI) per capita.

Access the Cost of Blindess tool here: Cost of Blindness Tool.

Economic productivity loss is defined as the loss of income/earnings incurred by people with blindness or MSVI, who are not able to work or work at reduced productivity as a result of their visual impairment.

Both the MW and GNI methods to calculate productivity loss are simplified models that can be applied to any country with available data. The costs can be updated annually as economic data, demographics, and prevalence change to respond to trends in the labor market, health care, and the increase in the aging population. The GNI and MW methods are now made available to the public, with detailed instructions provided, through the Cost of Blindness Tool.

The full article is available here:

The following methodology was applied to develop and test the GNI and MW methods:1

  • Cost of blindness (COB) was calculated using two simple formulas (attached) for the age group ≥50 years by assuming the loss of annual, total MW and loss of GNI per capita for the year 2011.
  • Costs were calculated for 9 sample countries: Japan, Brazil, Nigeria, the United States (US), Mexico, Pakistan, Honduras, Australia, and Malaysia.
  • Internationally standardized data were used from the 2010 Global Burden of Diseases Study,2 the United Nations,3 the International Labor Organization,4 and the World Bank,5 thus allowing for a measurable comparison in costs of productivity loss across countries.
  • It was assumed that all individuals work until 65 years old and that half of visual impairment prevalent in the ≥50 years age group is prevalent in the 50-64 years age group.
  • For Cost of MSVI (COMSVI), individual wage and GNI per capita loss of 30% was assumed.6,7
  • A more complex economic model previously estimated the global productivity loss due to uncorrected refractive error (URE), using the purchasing power parity (PPP)-adjusted gross domestic product (GDP), labor force participation rate, employment rate, and caretaker costs.8,9 The values obtained by the simplified GNI and MW methods were compared with the values obtained by the more complex URE model, which was adjusted for the ≥50 years age group.

Key findings from the study were:1

  • The COB (MW method) ranged from $0.1 billion in Honduras to $2.5 billion in the United States (US); the COMSVI ranged from $0.1 billion in Honduras to $5.3 billion in the US.
  • The COB (GNI method) ranged from $0.1 million in Honduras to $7.8 billion in the US; the COMSVI ranged from $0.1 billion in Honduras to $16.5 billion in the US.
  • When comparing the MW method values to the URE model, the adjustment factors for adjusted and unadjusted GDP PPP per capita loss varied greatly across countries.
  • Most GNI method values were near equivalent of the URE model, thereby demonstrating that the simple GNI method can obtain similar results to the more complex URE model.
  • Although the MW method was less comparable with the URE model, the use of MW still provides a real world application to people without training in economic and/or epidemiological modeling.
  • There are an estimated 32-39 million people with blindness and 191-246 million people with moderate and severe visual impairment (MSVI) in the world.9,10 Although most people with blindness and MSVI live in developing countries, the highest productivity losses are in high income countries, supporting that the global economy could improve with universal eye care.1


1.          Kristen A Eckert, Marissa J Carter, Van Charles Lansingh, David Wilson, Joao Furtado, Kevin Frick, Serge Resnikoff. A simple method for estimating the economic cost of productivity loss due to blindness and moderate to severe visual impairment. Ophthalmic Epidemiol. 2015;22:349–355.

2.         Fricke TR, Holden BA, Wilson DA, et al. Global cost of correcting vision impairment from uncorrected refractive error. Bull World Health Organ. 2012;90:728–738.

3.         United Nations, Department of Economic and Social Affairs. Population Division, Population Estimates, and Projection Section. World Population Prospects: The 2011 Revision. Accessed October 24, 2012.

4.         International Labour Organization. ILOSTAT – database of labour statistics. Accessed October 24, 2012.

5.         The World Bank. GNI per capita, Atlas method (current US$). The World Bank, 2012. Accessed October 24, 2012.

6.         Brault MW. Americans with Disabilities: 2010. Household Economic Studies. U.S. Census Bureau, July 2012. Accessed February 20, 2014.

7.         Clinton A, Coughlan J, Dahlin B. New all-employee hours and earnings from the CES survey. Monthly Labor Review. March 2010:34–40.

8.         Smith TST, Frick KD, Holden BA, et al. Potential lost productivity resulting from the global burden of uncorrected refractive error. Bull World Health Organ. 2009;87:431– 437.

9.         Stevens GA, White RA, Flaxman SR, et al. On behalf of the Vision Loss Expert Group. Global prevalence of vision impairment and blindness: magnitude and temporal trends, 1990-2010. Ophthalmology. 2013;120:2377–2384.

10.       Pascolini D, Mariotti SP. Global estimates of visual impairment: 2010. Br J Ophthalmol. 2012;96:614–618.

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