Myopia Increasing in the U.S. Population

News Brief

A National Eye Institute (NEI) study found that the prevalence of myopia, or nearsightedness, increased 66 percent in the United States between 1971-1972 and 1999-2004.

In 1971-1972, an estimated 25 percent of the United States population aged 12-54 was diagnosed with myopia. In this 2009 study, NEI researchers used similar methods to identify myopia cases using data from 1999-2004. They found that the prevalence estimate was 66 percent higher than in 1971-1972. Myopia prevalence rose more than 100 percent for blacks and 30-80 percent for whites.

This study was done only for comparison with the 1971-1972 figures. The best estimate of U.S. myopia prevalence that NEI researchers have to date is 33.1 percent, which was determined in a 2008 study.

This study was not designed to identify the causes of myopia. The NEI will continue to look for genetic, environmental, and lifestyle factors associated with the condition.


Vitale S, Sperduto RD, Ferris FL 3rd. Increased Prevalence of Myopia in the U.S. between 1971-1972 and 1999-2004. Arch Ophthalmol. 2009 Dec;127(12):1632-9. PubMed

Media Coverage

ABC News – December 15, 2009
Trouble Seeing? You’re Not Alone
Los Angeles Times – December 15, 2009
Distance Vision is All a Blur to More of Us
National Public Radio – January 11, 2010
Medical Detectives Focus On Myopia

Regular comprehensive eye exams can help you protect your sight and make sure that you are seeing your best. Read more about Healthy Eyes.