Baby Boomers Worry About Eye Health but Skip Regular Exams, Ocular Nutrition Society Survey Says
The National Eye Institute estimates that over the next 30 years, the number of Americans that experience eye health issues will double because of aging baby boomers. Still, although boomers worry about vision loss almost as much as heart disease and cancer, that anxiety does not translate into regular eye exams. According to a new survey released by the
Ocular Nutrition Society, less than half of those surveyed (43 percent) visited their eye doctor once a year. In addition, very few are aware that there are some important nutrients that help maintain eye health.
A majority of baby boomers surveyed (55 percent) worry about vision loss compared with 60 percent who worry about heart disease and 62 percent who worry about cancer. However, there is a disconnect between that anxiety of possible disease occurring and what they do to address it.
For example, while 78 percent of survey respondents ranked vision as the most important of the five senses, only 43 percent visited their eye doctor once a year. In addition, most were unaware of the nutritional supplements that can help prevent eye maladies. A full two thirds of respondents were not aware that lutein plays a key role in eye health, nearly 9 out of 10 did not know that zeaxanthin is a key nutrient for eye health, and more than half were unaware that omega-3s are important for eye health.
The demand for vision services is expected to flood the health care system by 2015 due to age-related eye disease and the diabetes epidemic. “The baby boomer generation is characterized by their desire for independence. As this generation ages, many will be affected by some type of eye concern which could impact their daily lives,” said Jeffrey Anshel, OD, FAAO, president, Ocular Nutrition Society. “We wanted to gain an understanding of how active boomers are about maintaining their eyes as they age and what they know about overall eye health. If people are at risk for heart disease they typically make lifestyle modifications. This survey found that people are as concerned about their eyes but do not know the simple steps they need to incorporate into their daily lives to take care of them.”
Experts recommend that disease prevention, including lifestyle modification, attention to dietary intake and vitamin supplements must become a greater focus of primary vision care. Studies indicate that proper nutrition promotes healthy eyes, however, many American diets are found to be deficient of the critical nutrients that help protect eye health.
The survey also looked at whether boomers are taking vitamin and nutrient supplements to support the gaps in their diet. While over half of baby boomers surveyed are taking supplements to protect their joints, bones or hearth health, only 18 percent said they take supplements to support their eye health. A substantial 75 percent agreed that the need for certain vitamins/nutrients to support eye health increases as one ages, with half also agreeing that taking a focused eye vitamin or supplement can help protect eye health. Of those who do not take supplements, 31 percent said it was because they believe they receive enough nutrients from food.
“As we grow older, the need for certain vitamins and nutrients to support the eye increases,” said Anshel. “This survey revealed low awareness of these essential nutrients and highlights the need for greater education on the lifestyle modifications that baby boomers should be incorporating into their daily lives, including proper nutrition, to safeguard eye health as they age.”
“Eye on the Boomer” telephone survey of a national random sample of 1,001 Americans aged 45 to 65 was conducted by KRC Research, an independent marketing research organization. The survey was supported by an educational grant from Bausch + Lomb, which provides the Ocuvite line of ocular nutrition products.