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Eye Health and Economic Development

The Economic Benefits of Investing in Eye Health

  • Value of early detection and treatment
    • Investing in the early detection and treatment of eye diseases can lead to significant savings in healthcare costs. Addressing issues before they escalate reduces the need for more advanced and costly treatments down the line, ensuring that both individuals and nations save valuable resources.1
  • Boosting productivity
    • Poor eye health often leads to decreased productivity, absenteeism, and, in severe cases, job losses. However, restoring vision can empower individuals, leading to increased workplace efficiency and driving economic growth.2, 3
  • Return on investment
    • Around the globe, multiple case studies underscore the economic advantages of investing in eye health. Every dollar spent on refractive error or cataract correction produces $36 in benefits, on par with other ‘Best Buys’ in international development.4
  • A snapshot of current investments
    • While the significance of eye health is undeniable, investments in this sector vary widely. Governments, the private sector, and international organizations have increasingly recognised its importance, but allocations remain inconsistent. Some countries allocate between 1.5% to 2.7% of health expenditure to eye health.5
  • Cost-effectiveness
    • When compared to other areas of health investment, eye health often receives less attention. Yet, the ROI, both in terms of health outcomes and economic benefits, from eye health often surpasses many other health sectors.2 Investing in vision is not just a health priority but a strategic economic decision.

Why Eye Health is Important for Economic Development

Sight loss has significant economic implications such as job loss, reduced productivity, or early retirement. Sight loss limits mobility, literacy, and people’s capacity to fully participate in society. Sight loss not only affects individual livelihoods but generates broader societal economic burdens.

Investing in sight loss prevention and treatment can be extremely cost-effective, and enhances quality of life and boosts productivity, while reducing the societal and economic burdens of untreated vision impairment and blindness.

Understanding the economics of eye health is important to inform decision-making in healthcare policy, to prioritize interventions, and ultimately improve global eye health in a sustainable manner.

To learn more about why eye health is important for economic development, and the links between eye health and Sustainable Development Goals, view the following infographic and access the Eye Health: Why it matters factsheet.

Infographic showing benefits of eye care (e.g. economic growth, ROI, productivity, education) v costs (economic burden, reduced employment, increased mortality, limits education)

The Economic Costs of Sight Loss

Global and regional statistics on the economic impact of vision impairment

The worldwide economic burden attributed to vision impairment and blindness is a staggering $411 billion annually,2 equivalent to roughly 0.3% of the global GDP.6

People with sight loss experience 30% relative reduction in employment, and have a higher mortality risk.7

School-age children with sight loss can also experience lower levels of educational achievement and self-esteem than their peers[4], which has implications for future earning potential.

Eye health and the World of Work

Reduced productivity due to sight loss has serious economic implications. Reduced output in agriculture, manufacturing, and services can result in lower wages and increased poverty levels.

On a national scale, decreased productivity can result in slower GDP growth. Additionally, sight loss can contribute to increased healthcare costs due to accidents or the need for ongoing care. The visualisation below demonstrates the influence of sight loss on various industries around the world.

Economic impact of sight loss by industry type

The following graphic shows a selection of studies in various industries that report on the economic impact and productivity losses of sight loss, and the benefits of treating sight loss.

Select the following image to access a selection of studies in various industries that report on the economic impact and productivity losses of sight loss, and the benefits of treating sight loss.


Eye Health and the World of Work

To learn more about eye health and the world of work, read the key co-publication from the International Labour Organization (ILO) and IAPB, Eye Health and the World of Work, which underlines the crucial need for better eye health protection in workplaces.

According to the report, 13 million individuals suffer from work-related vision impairment, with 3.5 million eye injuries reported annually at work. Workers with vision issues are 30% less likely to be employed. The report advocates for global, national, and workplace initiatives for eye health.

  1. World Health Organization (WHO), “World report on vision,” Geneva, 9789241516570, 2019.
  2. M. Burton, “Lancet Global Health Commission on Global Eye Health: Vision Beyond 2020,” The Lancet Global Health, vol. 9, no. 4, pp. e489–e551, 2021.
  3. P. A. Reddy et al., “Effect of providing near glasses on productivity among rural Indian tea workers with presbyopia (PROSPER): a randomised trial,” The Lancet Global Health, vol. 6, no. 9, pp. e1019–e1027, Sep. 2018, doi: 10.1016/S2214-109X(18)30329-2.
  4. SEVA, “Eye health: a best buy in global health and development,” SEVA, Nov. 2023. Accessed: Nov. 10, 2023. [Online]. Available:
  5. Deloitte and Roche, “Investment in Eye Health to Prevent Sight Loss.” Accessed: Sep. 12, 2023. [Online]. Available:
  6. A. P. Marques et al., “The economics of vision impairment and its leading causes: A systematic review,” eClinicalMedicine, vol. 46, p. 101354, 2022, doi: 10.1016/j.
  7. J. R. Ehrlich et al., “The Association Between Vision Impairment and Mortality : A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis,” The Lancet Global Health, vol. in press, 2020, doi: 10.17605/
  8. K. A. Eckert, V. C. Lansingh, M. J. Carter, and K. D. Frick, “Update of a Simple Model to Calculate the Annual Global Productivity Loss Due to Blindness and Moderate and Severe Vision Impairment,” Ophthalmic Epidemiology, 2022, doi: 10.1080/09286586.2022.2072899.
  9. S. Mannava, R. R. Borah, and B. R. Shamanna, “Current estimates of the economic burden of blindness and visual impairment in India: A cost of illness study,” Indian J Ophthalmol, vol. 70, no. 6, pp. 2141–2145, Jun. 2022, doi: 10.4103/ijo.IJO_2804_21.
  10. D. B. Rein et al., “The Economic Burden of Vision Loss and Blindness in the United States,” Ophthalmology, vol. 129, no. 4, pp. 369–378, Apr. 2022, doi: 10.1016/j.ophtha.2021.09.010.
  11. ILO and IAPB, “Eye Health and the World of Work,” International Labor Organization, Switzerland, 2023. Accessed: Oct. 20, 2023. [Online]. Available:
  12. A. Bastawrous and A. V. Suni, “Thirty Year Projected Magnitude (to 2050) of Near and Distance Vision Impairment and the Economic Impact if Existing Solutions are Implemented Globally,” Ophthalmic Epidemiology, vol. 27, no. 2, pp. 115–120, 2020, doi: 10.1080/09286586.2019.1700532.
  13. The Fred Hollows Foundation and Victoria University Institute of Strategic Economic Studies, “Transforming Lives: An Investment Case for Eye Health,” The Fred Hollows Foundation, 2023. Accessed: Aug. 01, 2023. [Online]. Available:
  14. X. Tan et al., “Impact of Cataract Surgery on Income in Rural Southern China: The SUCCESS Randomized Controlled Trial,” The Asia-Pacific Journal of Ophthalmology, vol. 12, no. 4, p. 355, Aug. 2023, doi: 10.1097/APO.0000000000000624.
  15. B. R. Shamanna, R. R. Borah, S. Sheeladevi, and D. Chandra, “Cost-benefit analysis of investing in child eye health,” University of Hyderabad, Orbis, 2022.
  16. ATscale Global Partnership for Assistive Technology, “The Case for Investing in Assistive Technology.”