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Ophthalmic Epidemiol. 2017 Aug;24(4):239-247. doi: 10.1080/09286586.2017.1281426. Epub 2017 Jun 30.

The Economic Impact of Blindness in Europe.

Author information

a Centre for Population Health , Queen's University of Belfast, Institute of Clinical Science , Belfast , UK.
b Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu Belgium , Diegem , Belgium.
c Retina International , Zurich , Switzerland.
d Vision and Eye Research Unit, Postgraduate Medical Institute , Anglia Ruskin University , Cambridge , UK.
e Vision Science Research Group, Biomedical Sciences Research Institute , Ulster University , Coleraine , UK.



To estimate the annual loss of productivity from blindness and moderate to severe visual impairment (MSVI) in the population aged >50 years in the European Union (EU).


We estimated the cost of lost productivity using three simple models reported in the literature based on (1) minimum wage (MW), (2) gross national income (GNI), and (3) purchasing power parity-adjusted gross domestic product (GDP-PPP) losses. In the first two models, assumptions included that all individuals worked until 65 years of age, and that half of all visual impairment cases in the >50-year age group would be in those aged between 50 and 65 years. Loss of productivity was estimated to be 100% for blind individuals and 30% for those with MSVI. None of these models included direct medical costs related to visual impairment.


The estimated number of blind people in the EU population aged >50 years is ~1.28 million, with a further 9.99 million living with MSVI. Based on the three models, the estimated cost of blindness is €7.81 billion, €6.29 billion and €17.29 billion and that of MSVI €18.02 billion, €24.80 billion and €39.23 billion, with their combined costs €25.83 billion, €31.09 billion and €56.52 billion, respectively. The estimates from the MW and adjusted GDP-PPP models were generally comparable, whereas the GNI model estimates were higher, probably reflecting the lack of adjustment for unemployment.


The cost of blindness and MSVI in the EU is substantial. Wider use of available cost-effective treatment and prevention strategies may reduce the burden significantly.


Blindness; direct costs; productivity loss; visual impairment

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