Br J Ophthalmol 90:272-275 doi:10.1136/bjo.2005.080986
  • World view

The economic impact and cost of visual impairment in Australia

  1. H R Taylor1,
  2. M L Pezzullo2,
  3. J E Keeffe1
  1. 1Centre for Eye Research Australia, University of Melbourne, East Melbourne Vic, Australia 3002 and Vision CRC, University of New South Wales, Sydney NSW, Australia 2052
  2. 2Access Economics Pty Limited, Level 1, 39 Brisbane Avenue, Barton ACT, Australia 2600
  1. Correspondence to: Professor Hugh R Taylor AC, MD, Centre for Eye Research Australia, University of Melbourne, 32 Gisborne Street, East Melbourne, Vic, Australia 3002; h.taylor{at}
  • Accepted 1 November 2005


Aims: To quantify the total economic costs of vision loss in Australia.

Methods: Prevalence data of visual impairment, unpublished data on indirect costs, and national healthcare cost databases were used.

Results: Vision disorders cost Australia an estimated A$9.85 billion in 2004. A$4.8 billion is the loss of wellbeing (years of life lost as a result of disability and premature mortality). Vision disorders rank seventh and account for 2.7% of the national loss of wellbeing. Direct health system costs total A$1.8 billion. They have increased by A$1 billion over the last 10 years and will increase a further A$1–2 billion in the next 10 years. Cataract, the largest direct cost, takes 18% of expenditure. The health system costs place vision disorders seventh, ahead of coronary heart disease, diabetes, depression, and stroke. Indirect costs, A$3.2 billion, include carers’ costs, low vision aids, lost earnings, and other welfare payments and taxes.

Conclusions: Even a developed economy such as Australia’s cannot afford avoidable vision loss. Priority needs to be given to prevent preventable vision loss; to treat treatable eye diseases; and to increase research into vision loss that can be neither prevented nor treated.


  • Competing interests: none declared