Vision Correction Usage Increasing for the Vision Care Market

In December 2013, the U.S. population comprised 242.7 million adults with just over three-fourths of them (182.8 million people) using some form of vision correction. Over the past year there has been a net increase of over 1 million vision correction users, however certain demographics, especially women and Americans over the age of 55, are embracing vision correction to a larger extent now than they were in late 2012.

Among the various methods that can be used to correct vision problems, a majority of American adults (154.3 million people) use prescription eyeglasses. There are also about 15 to 16 million children under the age of 18 wearing Rx eyeglasses at least some of the time. Women are more likely than men to wear eyeglasses and older Americans are more likely than younger Americans to wear eyeglasses.

During 2013, there was a downward trend in the number of Americans getting refractive surgery while plano sunglasses and OTC readers sales experienced the largest increases throughout the year. The largest growth in the vision care market during the 12ME period December 2013, in terms of retail dollars, came from OTC readers (+5.8%) and contact lenses (+5.9%).

Other forms of vision correction are also used by Americans to help them see clearly. For instance, 209.1 million Americans regularly wear plano (non-prescription) sunglasses to protect their eyes against the sun. An additional 23.1 million adults regularly use sun-clips in conjunction with eyeglasses to protect their eyes. The number of plano sunglass wearers and sun-clip wears has only increased slightly over the past couple years, after growing tremendously earlier in the decade. During the 12ME period December 2013, over-the-counter reading glasses had the largest increase in terms of unit sales (+4.0%). In December of 2013, there were 29.1 million adults wearing over the counter reading glasses—a net increase of 2.8 million users since December of 2009.

Since the recession, contact lenses have gain momentum again in the US vision care market. As of December 2013, 38.5 million American adults were wearing contact lenses at least some of the time. Women are more likely than men to wear contact lenses on a regular basis.  Additionally, younger Americans are more likely than older Americans to wear contact lenses. Over the past two years there has been a net increase of just fewer than 1 million adult contact lens wearers in the United States (representing a 2.4 percent increase in total contact lens users during the 12 month ending period of December 2013).

The final major vision correction alternative that Americans can select to see better is refractive surgery, particularly LASIK. As of December 2013, it is estimated that over 2.8 million Americans have had a LASIK procedure since the beginning of 2011, with just over 916,000 American adults having an initial LASIK procedure during the 12 month period ending in December 2013. Women and Americans between the ages of 18 to 34 were more likely than other demographic groups to have had an initial LASIK procedure during this period. While LASIK has remained a popular vision correction alternative for limited segments of the population, Americans between the ages of 35 to 44 and Americans from households with relatively higher annual incomes have been embracing LASIK  more during the 12 month period ending December 2013.

Of the American adult population that does not use vision correction, 21.3 percent (12.8 million adults) admit that they need vision correction but do nothing about it. This group is likely to be female, over the age of 45, have a household income of less than $60,000 per year and most do not possess some type of MVC insurance coverage. Most have not started using vision correction because “they haven’t gotten around to it yet” or because they believe “their eyes aren’t that bad yet.” While the overall number of “squinters” hasn’t changed much over the past few years, the percentage of the adult population needing vision correction and doing nothing about it has declined slightly during 2012 and 2013 as more Americans seek treatment for potential vision problems.

Data in this article was compiled from VisionWatch, the large scale continuous research study conducted by The Vision Council. VisionWatch contains useful industry data on Rx lenses, ophthalmic frames, plano sunglasses, OTC reading glasses, LASIK, contact lenses and eye exams. For additional information, please contact Steve Kodey at 703-740-1095.

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