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World’s blind population to soar

PARIS (AFP) – The world’s blind will increase threefold from about 36 million today to 115 million in 2050 as populations expand and individuals grow ever older, researchers said Thursday.

The number of people with a moderate to severe vision impairment – only those not corrected by glasses, contact lenses or an operation – will also near triple, from about 217 million to 588 million over the same period.

Most of those affected live in Africa and Asia, a team wrote in The Lancet Global Health journal.

Looking at data from 188 countries, the researchers concluded that the prevalence of blindness – the number of blind per population group – decreased from 0.75 percent in 1990 to 0.48 percent in 2015.

The rate of moderate to severe visual impairment declined from 3.83 percent to 2.9 per cent over the same time.

“This is almost certainly because of improved health interventions,” such as cataract surgery, study co-author Rupert Bourne of the Anglia Ruskin University told AFP.

But the rough numbers have not stopped rising in step with population growth and ageing. Most visual problems occur in older people.

The new forecast is based on UN population projections, even assuming that the prevalence continues to decline, said Bourne.

Someone with moderate visual impairment is considered to be unable to legally drive, and would not recognize another person from across the street.

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