Between 10 and 12% of the 10-year-old children in the 1970 national birth cohort were prescribed a pair of spectacles. One-fifth of these children had no impairment of visual acuity and a further 15-20% had only minimal visual defects. Only two-thirds of children with spectacles could produce them when asked to do so at the survey school medical examination; this was particularly common among those in the lower social classes and among children who had no detectable impairment. The information presented in this paper combined with that from earlier national birth cohort studies suggests that overprescribing of spectacles to school children is very common. The financial implications of this overprescribing are discussed.
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