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Eye Care Utilization and its Determinants in Canada

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canada eye care

In Canada, visual impairment is a significant economic burden, costing the country $15.8 billion annually. The prevalence of vision impairment rises substantially with age, to the point where one out of every ten persons over the age of 60 is affected. The cause for the majority of vision impairments is uncorrected refractive errors. For early detection of these errors and management of the illness, routine eye examinations are important.

Research: Eye Care Utilization in Canada

Out of 30,097 participants, a total of 28,728 participants completed the eye care utilization questionnaire which represents a 95 % share. Results showed that the frequency of eye care utilization during the 12 months significantly varied between provinces.

The province of Newfoundland and Labrador had the lowest rate of eye care use (50.4 %), while Ontario, Canada had the highest rate at 62.3 %. Researchers also observed sociodemographic characteristics and their relationship with the frequency with which people seek eye treatment.

The percentage of people who used it increased with age, ranging from 50.3 % in the 45-54 age group to 73.3 % in the 75-85 age group. What is more, women were more likely to seek medical help for their eyes than men.

The study also showed that marital status, cultural group, education, household income, and urban residence are all connected to eye care utilization. Furthermore, the link between lifestyle, health, and ocular factors and eye care utilization was also observed. Individuals who were current smokers had self-reported type 1 or type 2 diabetes, cataracts, glaucoma, and macular degeneration. Out of those, those who wore glasses or contacts, or had visual impairment were more likely to utilize eye care in 12 months in comparison to their counterparts.

Optometrist Rate per 100,000 People

In continuation, they also analyzed the optometrist rate per 100,000 people and the ophthalmologist rate per 100,000 people for each province to find out the frequency of eye care utilization. Except for Quebec, Canada, there is a positive linear relationship between the frequency of eye care utilization and the optometrist rate per 100,000 inhabitants in all provinces. On the other hand, there was no relationship between the frequency of eye care consumption and the ophthalmologist rate per 100,000 individuals.

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Optometrists assessing vision health of a man in Canada.

Conclusion

To conclude, 57% of Canadians aged 45-85 years used an eye care provider in 12 months. However, there was a significant regional difference – lowest in Newfoundland and Labrador and highest in Ontario.

A possible reason for low utilization in these two provinces might be that they do not cover the cost of a routine eye examination for adults aged 65 years and more. Consequently, this may dissuade individuals from accessing eye care.

Furthermore, people with lower education and lower household income were less likely to use eye treatment. Those with lower education may be unaware of the importance of routine eye exams as they get older. More than 16 % of individuals aged 60 and older with glaucoma and 25 % of those aged 60 and older with diabetes had not seen an eye care provider in the previous year, which is cause for worry.

Source: Aljied, R., Aubin, M. J., Buhrmann, R., Sabeti, S., & Freeman, E. E. (2018). Eye care utilization and its determinants in Canada. Canadian Journal of Ophthalmology, 53(3), 298–304. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jcjo.2018.01.021

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