Barriers to eyeglass wear are frequently associated with cosmetic appearance, convenience, and cost, according to a qualitative survey of individuals aged 14 to 24 years published in Optometry and Vision Science. Providing individuals in this age group with affordable, attractive, and convenient options may improve quality of life and lower the costs to society resulting from uncorrected refractive error, the report suggests.
Investigators from the University of Michigan recruited participants (n=1063; mean age, 20.3 years; 58.8% men or boys) for this study from the MyVoice Text Message Cohort, a longitudinal study seeking health-related opinions of youths via weekly text messaging. Using an open-ended poll, the team asked participants 5 questions pertaining to barriers to eyeglass wear and coded responses using grounded theory.
A majority of those interviewed (65.8%) reported problems with their vision and among those, most (63.6%) had worn spectacles or contact lenses. At the time of the survey, 50.4% still used refractive correction. A total of 9.0% of participants reported they had stopped wearing glasses or contact lenses citing beliefs that they no longer needed them (4.6%), were inconvenient (1.3%), or were lost or broken (1.3%).
Most respondents (85.1%) reported that their eyesight was very or somewhat important compared with other aspects of their health and almost half (47.7%) indicated that vision was critical for everyday life. However, the cohort identified several barriers to eyeglass wear, which included cosmetics (52%), inconvenience (15.6%), and discomfort (9.8%). Slightly more than half of the cohort viewed purchasing glasses online favorably (50.7%) and 9.4% reported purchasing glasses online.
“Youth value their eyesight highly. Yet they are deterred from wearing eyeglasses by the unattractive, expensive, inconvenient, and uncomfortable options available to them,” according to the researchers. “Uncorrected refractive error takes a toll on individual youth and the community at large. To address this public health problem, we must give youth access to refractive correction that is appealing, affordable, convenient, and comfortable.”
Study limitations include a lack of objective refractive error measurements and the use of a cohort that is not nationally representative.
Killeen OJ, Cho J, Raven SA, et al. A qualitative assessment of the experiences with eye health and barriers to eyeglasses among U.S. youth. Optom Vis Sci. Published online February 28, 2023. doi:10.1097/OPX.0000000000002003