Prevalence and Distribution of Corrective Lenses Among School-Age Children

  • The objective of this study was to quantify the proportion of children who have corrective lenses (glasses or contact lenses) and to evaluate the association of corrective lenses with age, gender, race/ethnicity, health insurance status, and family income.

  • Children 6 to 18 years of age were identified in the 1998 Medical Expenditure Panel Survey. National estimates were made of the proportion with corrective lenses. Logistic regression modeling was used to assess factors that were associated with corrective lenses.

  • Based on the 5,141 children in the 1988 Medical Expenditure Panel Survey, an estimated 25.4% of the 52.6 million children between 6 and 18 years had corrective lenses. Girls had greater odds than boys of having corrective lenses (odds ratio, 1.41; p < 0.001).

  • Insured children, regardless of race/ethnicity, and uninsured nonblack/non-Hispanic children had similar odds of having corrective lenses. Compared with uninsured black or Hispanic children (odds ratio, 1), greater odds of corrective lens use was found among uninsured nonblack/non-Hispanic children (odds ratio, 2.29; p = 0.002) and black or Hispanic children with public (odds ratio, 1.67; p = 0.005) or private health insurance (odds ratio,1.77; p = 0.004).

  • Among families with an income > or =200% of the federal poverty level, the odds of having corrective lenses increased with age (p < or = 0.04). In contrast, among those families <200% of the federal poverty level, the odds of having corrective lenses at 12 to 14 years was similar to 15- to 18-year olds (p = 0.93).

  • The use of corrective lenses suggests that correctable visual impairment is the most common treatable chronic condition of childhood. Income, gender, and race/ethnicity, depending on insurance status, are associated with having corrective lenses.

  • The underlying causes and the impacts of these differences must be understood to ensure optimal delivery of eye care.

Publication date

January 15, 2019


Optometry and Vision Science Journal

Sponsor Institution

American Academy of Optometry


Alex R. Kemper, MD, MPH, MS, David Bruckman, MS, MT (ASCP), and Gary L. Freed, MS, MPH
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