Visual disturbances in a population-based survey of 6962 subjects: the German National Health Examination Survey 1998

Andreas Stang, Karl-Heinz Jöckel
European Journal of Public Health 2003, 13 (3): 202-9

BACKGROUND: Available prevalence estimates of visual disturbances (excluding blindness) in Germany are based on data from highly selective populations. This report describes the prevalence of visual disturbances and potential determinants based on the German National Health Examination Survey from 1998.

METHODS: A population-based cross-sectional study of the non-institutionalized population in unified Germany. People aged 18-79 years were eligible and were contacted by a multi-mode approach. The response proportion was 61%, resulting in a sample of 7124 subjects who participated in the study. Visual disturbances were assessed by a self-administered questionnaire.

RESULTS: Prevalance rates are higher among women in unified as well as in East- and West Germany. The higher overall prevalence rates among women is mostly driven by higher prevalance rates at ages 18-49 years, especially for shortsightedness. The prevalence rates are higher in West Germany than East Germany. Visual disturbances are more prevalent among the middle and upper social class than the lower social class. Above the age group 40-44, the prevalence of visual disturbances considerably increases, to approximately 100% in the age group 55 years or older for both sexes and in both parts of Germany.

CONCLUSIONS: Nearly 100% of German adults aged 50-79 years have some degree of visual disturbance that requires refractive correction. Prevalence rates of visual disturbances are higher among people from West Germany, people of higher social status and among women. Uncorrected visual disturbances are most prevalent in the age group 18-34 years and more often among males and subjects of lower social status.

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