Pandemic Reduced Contact Lens Wear, Increased Screen Time

Man having his eyes examined by optometrist.
Man having his eyes examined by optometrist. Doctor is using phoropter glasses to check his patients eyesight.
A study shows that contact lens wearers wore their lenses approximately 1 day fewer per week after March 2020 than before.

This article is part of Optometry Advisor’s conference coverage from the 2021 meeting of the American Academy of Optometry, held in Boston from November 3 to 6, 2021. The team at Optometry Advisor will be reporting on a variety of the research presented by the primary eye care experts at the AAO. Check back for more from the AAO Optometry 2021 Meeting..

When the COVID-19 pandemic struck, stranding many Americans at home instead of in offices, schools, or retail settings, many stopped getting dressed up. Sweatpants and pajamas replaced office attire and back-to-school outfits. The same held true for eyewear choices, according to a study presented at the American Academy of Optometry 2021 meeting that shows patients, on average, wore their contact lenses approximately 1 fewer days per week than they had prior to the pandemic. 

Investigators Erin Rueff, OD, PhD, FAAO and  Elaine Chen, OD, FAAO, of Southern California College of Optometry (Marshall B. Ketchum University), employed a survey distributed via email to their institution’s faculty, staff, and student population. The survey asked participants how their vision correction habits changed following the March 2020 onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. The survey was returned by 133 participants (mean age 33.6±12.7 years, 78.2% women). The survey itself was issued in January 2021. 

The results showed that 58.6% (n=78) reported habitual contact lens wear at the time of the survey. In the entire sample, spectacle wear time increased in hours per day (1.1±4.0, P =.001) and days per week (0.3±2.0, P =.04). 

The survey also found the respondents experienced an increase in mean digital screen time, by 2.9±2.5 hours (P <.0001). 

The researchers reported that increases in days-per-week and hours-per-day of spectacle wear were both associated with increased digital screen times (P =.04 and P =.002, respectively). In contact lens wearers, the study noted a decrease in days-per-week (-1.0±2.5, P <.001) but not in hours-per-day of contact lens wear (-1.0±4.5, P =.07). The reduction in days-per-week contact lens wear was associated with increased screen time (P =.004). 

Neither changes in contact lens wear, nor spectacle wear time (days-per-week or hours-per-day) were associated with age, gender, or refractive error magnitude.

Visit Optometry Advisor’s conference section for complete coverage of AAO 2021.



Rueff E, Chen E. Vision correction habits after COVID-19 in spectacle and contact lens wearers. Poster presented at American Academy of Optometry 2021 meeting; November 3-6; Boston. Board #36.