Two thirds of the world's blind are women

November 28, 2001

Almost two thirds of the world's blind are women, finds an analysis of published research on global blindness in the British Journal of Ophthalmology. In 2000, Africa had over 10 times the rate of blindness of the rest of the world.

The authors carried out a literature search after 1990 of global surveys of blindness and its relation to poverty within and between nations. Their search showed that two thirds of the world's blind are concentrated in India, China, and Africa, and that inhabitants of rural areas were, on average, around twice as likely to be blind. Children from the poorest parts of the world were times as likely to be blind as children in the wealthiest.

But there were also disparities in wealthy countries, with the poor in the United States 30 per cent more likely to be blind than the wealthy. Educational levels and access to health care all influenced the risk of blindness.

Women were more at risk of blindness than men, the data showed. Women living in underdeveloped countries were almost 40 per cent more likely to be blind than the men of those countries. And the risk of blindness was 63 per cent higher for women living in industrialised nations.

While much of the blindness in wealthy, industrialised nations is difficult to prevent, with current medical knowledge, say the authors, in the poor world, much of it is preventable. Here, cataracts, refractive errors, and trachoma cause much of the blindness.
[Socioeconomic status and blindness 2001; 85: 1484-8]

BMJ Specialty Journals

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