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Magnitude and Projections

Projected Change in Vision Loss 2020 to 2050

Ageing population

By 2050, the number of people over 65 will almost double (from one in 11 people, to 1 in six people). The number of persons aged 80 years or over is projected to triple, from 140 million in 2019 to 420 million in 2050. This is concerning as the prevalence of vision loss increases rapidly with age, and age is associated with increased prevalence of cataract and age-related macular degeneration.

Chart description: The numbers affected (in millions) by all four categories of vision loss in 2020, with the projected numbers affected (in millions) by all four categories of vision loss in 2050. All ages, males and females. The percentage change between 2020 and 2050 for each category of vision loss is also shown.

Data from VLEG/GBD 2020 model.

Lifestyle changes

This anticipated surge is primarily due to population growth and ageing, however, we know that these lifestyle changes are also increasing vision loss. Increased urbanization and education, more sedentary and indoor lifestyles, less-nutritious foods and resulting obesity have all contributed to the dramatic rise in the global prevalence of diabetes and myopia globally.


In 2000, the global estimate of adults living with diabetes was 151 million. In 2015 this had grown to 415 million people and today, a staggering 463 million people are living with diabetes. It’s predicted there will be 642 million adults with diabetes by 2040, and 700 million adults by 2045 (International Diabetes Federation).

Diabetes and diabetic retinopathy, 2015 to 2040

(Global, number of people in millions)

Data from Ogurtsova et al, 2017, Wang et al, 2020, and Yau et al, 2012. 


In 2015, it was estimated that 23% of the world’s population had myopia. By 2050, this is projected to rise to 50%. These environmental and other factors mean that the numbers affected by myopic macular degeneration and diabetic retinopathy are rising quickly.

Eye health services need considerable investment to prevent staggering rates of vision loss.

Chart description: The numbers affected (in millions) by vision loss due to myopia macular degeneration causing blindness or moderate to severe vision impairment from 1990 to 2020, by 10-year intervals, and projected to 2050 by 10 year intervals. Adults 50 years and over, males and females.

Source: Holden et al, 2016