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Vision – and the Cost of Living

Tough times call for tough measures, apparently. And for many people across the globe, the financial challenges raised by the compounding effects of several international factors have left them facing incredibly difficult economic circumstances. The UK is currently in the midst of a “cost of living crisis” with many being forced to choose which of their basic needs to fulfil. Although some of the acute effects of this are already being seen, many fear that the chronic consequences may have lasting damage. The Association of Optometrists (AOP) recently issued a warning after a public poll conducted in October highlighted that the majority of public who wear glasses or contact lenses are putting off going to see eye care professionals due to their fear of the potential cost – with many wearing out of date prescriptions, the cheapest of reading glasses, or broken glasses that they had taped together (1). These figures mirror the experiences of optometrists – the majority of whom said they had seen a patient in the last three months who needed vision correction but didn’t take action because they couldn’t afford to.

Although certainly worrying, these reports are not unprecedented, instead echoing similar findings in America during the recession in the years following the 2008 financial crisis. At the time, the American Optometric Association (AOA) found that, despite the fact that patients were most worried about losing their vision over both their memory and even their ability to walk, over half of the 36 percent of patients who said they were limiting doctors visits included their eye doctors in those cutbacks (2).

With many ocular problems having no obvious early warning signs, the worry – both then and now – is that, by neglecting their eyesight in the short-term, patients may be setting themselves up for more serious eye and vision problems in the long-term. As Adam Sampson, the Chief Executive of the AOP explained, “People are being forced to make decent vision an optional “extra” – a truly concerning reality”.

So, how can patients be encouraged to seek help for their eyesight needs in a struggling economy? Well, as one might imagine, such a multifaceted problem may not have a singular clear-cut answer. Solutions will have to bolster current and instil new initiatives that offer patients access to free or low-cost eye care within the financial, medical and political infrastructures of each country in question. In the UK, one idea being proposed is increasing the value of the National Health Service’s (NHS) optical voucher – given, alongside free eye tests, to low income and vulnerable patients to help towards the cost of glasses or contact lenses – to reflect the impact of inflation.

Although many financial analysts predict that recessions will likely not have a major effect on the growth and consolidation of the healthcare sector, especially in high income countries, such as the US, the effect on the ocular health of those seeking access to services within this sector is a different question (3). Our recent interviews with Gertrude Oforiwa Fefoame and Syeda Asma Rashida both highlight the lengths that some in the eye care sector are going to ensure that everybody – across the globe – has access to high quality healthcare but also that the responsibility is one that is shared. As Rashida says, “Everyone has a part to play in advocating for the voiceless among us. Working to remove the discrimination befalling others should be a global and universal effort.”

Those in the UK who wish to learn more about the AOP’s #EyeCareSupportNow campaign can do so here.

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  1. Association of Optometrists (2022), Available at:
  2. Fierce Healthcare (2009), Available at:
  3. M Dillender et al., Inquiry, 58, 469580211060260 (2021). PMID: 34873942.
About the Author
Oscelle Boye

Associate Editor, The Ophthalmologist

I have always been fascinated by stories. During my biomedical sciences degree, though I enjoyed wet lab sessions, I was truly in my element when sitting down to write up my results and find the stories within the data. Working at Texere gives me the opportunity to delve into a plethora of interesting stories, sharing them with a wide audience as I go.

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