Sociodemographic disparities in visual function are seen as early as adolescence

Comprehensive Ophthalmology, Pediatric Ophth/Strabismus

Investigators used national survey data to assess whether sociodemographic disparities in visual acuity (VA) affect people as early as the adolescent years.

Study design

This was a retrospective cross-sectional study which utilized data from 2833 adolescents (age 12–18 years) enrolled in the 2005–2008 National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys. This population is a  survey-weighted representation of the 57 million adolescents in the United States. Race, ethnicity, gender, household income, and citizenship status were assessed as factors of both subjective, self-reported visual function and objective VA.


Sixty-three percent of participants were non-Hispanic White, 14% were non-Hispanic Black, and 11% were Mexican American. The Black and Mexican-American participants were more likely to have subjective poor visual function (odds ratio [OR] 2.85 and 2.83, respectively) and objective worse VA (>20/40) (OR 2.13) than non-Hispanic White participants. Children from lower-income families and those who were non-US citizens also reported lower visual function and worse VA.


The dataset was from 2005–2008, making it 14–17 years old. Therefore, it may not reflect the current US adolescent population, both in terms of race/ethnicity and health care access.

Clinical significance

There are racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic disparities affecting adolescents’ access to vision and eye care. The authors recommend implementing measures to improve access in order to prevent visual impairment in adulthood.

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