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UV Exposure among U.S. Adults

During the winter of 2015, The Vision Council deployed a VisionWatch Survey concerning sunglass usage and concerns regarding UV exposure; repeating the study every other year, first starting in 2013. Participants were asked about how often they wear sunglasses and if they have experience any symptoms caused by UV exposure. A total of 10,279 submissions were gathered from the 14-question survey with 11.3 percent of respondents reporting that they never wear sunglasses.

Nearly one-third of respondents wear sunglasses every time they go outside (31.2%). Americans that wear plano sunglasses every time they go outside were most likely to be women, reside in higher income households ($60K+), and live in the Mountain-Pacific region of the U.S. An additional 12.1% of respondents stated that they wear sunglasses if they are outside for 2 or more hours while 15.4% indicated they use sunglasses after an hour of being outside. Over fourteen percent of respondents use sunglasses if they have been outside for more than fifteen minutes and the remaining 26.9% of respondents stated that they don’t typically wear sunglasses at all when outside. Men, respondents over age 55 and from lower income households were more likely to not wear sunglasses when they go outside.

We additionally asked respondents to describe how often they wear sunglasses. Over half of respondents said “always” or “often”. Nearly 22% said “sometimes” and the remaining 25.1% reported “never” or “rarely”. For 3,451 of respondents who have children under the age of 18 living at home, the majority said that their child(ren) wear sunglasses “sometimes” (36.0%). Only 8.2% of respondents reporting on behalf of their child(ren) said that their children wear sunglasses “always” when outside; a stark difference from the percentage of adults who “always” wear sunglasses (23.2%).

For the 7,897 respondents who indicated that they don’t wear sunglasses “always” when outdoors, we asked what keeps them from wearing sunglasses all the time. The majority (28.4%) indicated that they don’t have their sunglasses on them when they go outside. Respondents who wear sunglasses, own multiple pairs of sunglasses, live in the Midwest region of the U.S., are from higher income households and are between the age of 35 to 44 are most likely to not have their sunglasses with them when they go outside. Next most common reasons most often associated with not wearing sunglasses outdoors all the time were forgetting to put them on and thinking that they are not outside long enough to put them on; 26.3% and 17.4% respectively.

When asked if respondents had experienced certain symptoms after prolonged UV exposure, the most common symptom reported was irritation to the eye (16.0%) followed by trouble seeing (13.5%). Most respondents, however, stated that they do not experience any symptoms (65.6%). Sixty-three respondents (0.6%) have experienced cancer on or around the eye due to UV exposure.

In regard to respondents concerns of potential eye issues from UV exposure, almost 30% of the US adult population indicated they are concerned with vision loss. This response was common among, women, adults over 55 years old and respondents owning multiple pairs of sunglasses. Next biggest concern among 18.2% of Americans was skin cancer. Younger adults, adults with MVC and those from higher income households were likely to say that they are worried about skin cancer from UV exposure. Less than a quarter of Americans reported that they have no concerns about UV exposure to their eyes.

Americans were additionally asked what times of the day do they spend the most time outdoors. The most common response was 2 – 4 p.m. followed by 4 – 6 p.m.; 35.5% and 33.0% respectively. Being outside at these times was a common choice among men, adults 35 to 44 years old, Americans who own multiple pairs of sunglasses and live in the Midwest region of the U.S. Other popular times Americans reported being outside were 10 a.m. – 12 p.m. (27.3%) and 12 – 2 p.m. (28.5%). Americans over the age 55, men and those living in the Northeast of the U.S. were most likely to say they were outside for the hours of 10 a.m. – 2 p.m.

We also asked Americans which activities they are most likely to wear sunglasses. Less than three-quarters of Americans said they wear sunglasses while driving a car followed by 49.0% who wear while walking and 44.8% wearing while at the beach. Other Americans reported wearing sunglasses during yard work (24.6%), while on a boat (17.0%), watching a sporting event (14.4%) and/or while playing a sport (6.0%).

When Americans make a plano sunglass purchase, there were certain qualities that were more important than others. Of the options listed (i.e. style/fashion/brand, comfort or fit, affordability, UV protection and/or athletic performance), 64.7% of sunglass users reported that comfort or fit was the most important attribute to consider when buying sunglasses. This was followed by 54.0% who indicated that affordability was the most important factor. UV protection was reported among 44.0% of sunglass users as the most important quality when purchasing sunglasses. Women, sunglass users over 55 years old, sunglass users from higher income households and people planning to buy plano sunglasses in the near future were likely to cite UV protection as the most important attribute for purchasing sunglasses.

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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