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Eye Exams among U.S. Children

The Vision Council fielded a short questionnaire to survey American parents with children under the age of 18 living at home about the vision correction needs and behaviors of those children. About 37 percent of all parents with children living at home report that their child(ren) has never received an eye exam. Parents with only one child living at home, and parents with a child under the age of 10 living at home, were more likely than other parents to never have taken any of their children to get their eyes examined. Insurance coverage (of any kind) has little-to-no influence regarding the frequency or history of eye exams among American children. We would expect that parents with insurance coverage, especially vision care coverage, would be more likely to have taken their children to receive an eye exam in the past; however, this is not the case.

Among the 1,870 parents who have not taken their children to receive an eye exam within the past two years, 58 percent claim they have not done so because their children do not need an exam. Parents with children over the age of 10 living at home and parents with more than one child living at home were more likely than other parents to avoid eye exams for their children because of the belief that their children don’t need one.

A significant portion of parents who have not taken their children for an eye exam recently (38.4 percent) believe their children are too young to experience vision problems and therefore do not need an exam. Parents with only one child living at home, and parents with a child under the age of 10 were more likely than other parents to avoid taking their child for an eye exam due to the belief that their child is too young for a vision problem.

Slightly more than thirteen percent of parents said they have not taken their child for an eye exam recently because their child’s vision problems are only minor. This was especially true for parents of older children (age 10 and older) and parents with more than one child living at home. For about 8 percent of parents whose children have not received an eye exam recently they perceived high cost of an exam was a contributing factor. The thought that the exam will cost too much was a particular strong deterrent for parents with no vision insurance and for parents with an average household income of under $40K annually.

Close to 7 percent of parents said their children had not received an exam recently because they did not have an eye doctor. This was especially the case for parents with an annual household income under $40k, those with no vision insurance coverage and for parents with more than 2 children under the age of 18 living at home. Another six percent of parents with children that have not received an exam in the past two years said they were too busy to take their children for an eye exam. This was especially true for parents with more than 2 children living at home and for parents with children between the ages of 10 and 13 years old.

When looking at parents who have taken their children to receive an eye exam within the past 12 months, more than 35 percent of parents have done so with 14.6 percent reporting that one of their children had an exam in the past six months alone. Again, health insurance coverage of any kind appears to have exerted only a minimal influence on the decision of parents to take their children for an eye exam sometime in the past 12 months. Parents with more than one child living at home, and parents with older children living at home, were more likely than other parents to have taken one of their children to receive an eye exam within the past year. Additionally, parents of children who wear eyeglasses or other prescription eyewear, as well as parents from households with annual incomes over $60,000 were more likely than other parents to have taken one of their children to get an eye exam within the past year.

Among the 2,601 parents that have taken their children to receive an eye exam at least once in the past two years, 52.7 percent claim they had their child’s eyes examined to maintain healthy vision and stop vision problems before they start. This preventive maintenance approach to vision care was especially popular among parents with a managed vision care plan and parents with high annual household incomes ($100K+). As expected, parents without any form of insurance coverage were less likely than other parents to take their children to receive an eye exam in order to maintain healthy vision.

Almost 22.5 percent of parents who have taken their child to have an eye exam in the past two years did so because their child was experiencing a vision problem. This is slightly less than 2014 when only 26.3 percent of parents took their child for an eye exam because they were experiencing a vision problem. Vision problems were a strong motivator for parents of children who currently wear prescription eyewear, especially eyeglasses, and other forms of vision correction. Over one out of every six parents that have taken their children for an eye exam in the past 24 months did so based on the recommendation of a physician while over 8 percent did so based on the recommendation of an educator or teacher. Parents of younger children (age nine and under), as well as parents with multiple children living at home were more likely than other parents to have taken their child to get an eye exam within the past two years based on the recommendation of a physician, educator or teacher.

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 Brin Miller at 703-740-2251.

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