The United Kingdom's average life expectancy has risen steadily over the years. Most UK residents can expect to make it to at least 81 years old. With so many more people living longer, of course, the incidence of eye problems is also set to rise. In order to effectively plan for the future, hospitals across the nation desperately need accurate forecasts for the future eye care demands of its citizens.
Currently, the UK government and UK medical authorities don't have a great estimate on how steadily the rate of people with sight problems will increase in the coming years. Although some charities have estimated that about 360,000 UK citizens were either blind or partially sighted, this estimate was not based on any recent comprehensive data, nor can it tell medical authorities anything about future expectations.
To address this issue, an umbrella organization called VISION 2020 UK is set to administer an eye survey to over 250,000 people across the country. The team at VISION 2020 wants this test to be as randomized as possible to study how differences in age, gender, ethnic background, income, and place of residence change a person's likelihood of developing vision loss. This eye test will be designed by Rupert Bourne, a consultant ophthalmologist in London's Moorfields Eye Hospital.
VISION 2020 UK hopes that their work will help medical facilities effectively plan for the future. If current estimates are correct, the amount of people who will experience vision loss in the next 20 years will double. The only way to test this claim is to administer a thorough randomized test and use that test's data to analyze overall trends.
As hinted at above, it is precisely because people across the UK are living longer that the country is expected to have such an increase in eye problems. People over 65 represent three quarters of the clinically blind. Also, it is estimated that one in five people over the age of 75 have to deal with at least one long-term eye problem.
These eye issues not only take their toll on a person physically, they can also have devastating psychological effects on a person's quality of life. For example, one third of people who have some form of sight loss have also experienced severe bouts of depression.
Another troubling trend VISION 2020 UK's test hopes to clear up is the staggering rise in short-sightedness amongst the UK's children. The rate of children who are short-sighted has doubled since the 1960s, and doctors can only hypothesize on the cause of this increase.
Some doctors believe that this increase in short-sightedness has to do with the fact that children ever since the 1960s have been brought up in a world exposed to a huge amounts of artificial lights, including TVs and computers. Others postulate that this rise in short-sightedness is simply due to genetics. The only thing doctors can agree on is that it is more crucial than ever before for children to get their eyes checked early and often. Also, doctors suggest children get at least two hours a day outside in the sun away from computer screens.
VISION 2020 UK's eye survey will officially be the largest survey ever administered to a civilian population. Since this test is so large, it will also be very costly. VISION 2020 UK estimates that this test will cost a whopping £15 million.