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Original Research

The prevalence of self-reported vision difficulty in economically disadvantaged regions of South Africa

Kovin S. Naidoo, Jyoti Jaggernath, Prasidh Ramson, Farai Chinanayi, Tom Zhuwau, Lene Øverland

African Journal of Disability; Vol 4, No 1 (2015), 11 pages. doi: 10.4102/ajod.v4i1.136

Submitted: 20 May 2014
Published:  25 June 2015


Background: Vision impairment, resulting in vision difficulties, is a leading cause of disability, and hence one of the key barriers for people to access education and employment, which may force them into poverty.

Objectives: The objective of this study was to determine the prevalence of self-reported vision difficulties as an indicator of vision impairment in economically disadvantaged regions in South Africa, and to examine the relationship between self-reported vision difficulties and socio-economic markers of poverty, namely, income, education and health service needs.

Methods: A cross-sectional study was conducted in economically disadvantaged districts to collect data from households on poverty and health, including vision difficulty. As visual acuity measurements were not conducted, the researchers used the term vision difficulty as an indicator of vision impairment. Data were collected from 27 districts (74 901 respondents). Logistic regression analysis and chi-square tests were used to determine bivariate relationships between variables and self-reported vision difficulty. Kernel density estimators were used for age, categorised by self-reported and not reported vision difficulty.

Results: Prevalence of self-reported vision difficulty was 11.2% (95% CI, 8.7% – 13.7%). More women (12.7%) compared to men (9.5%) self-reported vision difficulty (p < 0.01). Self-reported vision difficulty was higher (14.2%) for respondents that do not spend any money. A statistically significant relationship was found between the highest level of education and self-reporting of vision difficulty; as completed highest level of education increased, self-reporting of vision difficulty became lower (p < 0.01). A significantly higher prevalence of self-reported vision difficulty was found in respondents who are employed (p < 0.01), 17% (95% CI: 12.8% – 21.1%).

Conclusion: The evidence from this study suggests associations between socio-economic factors and vision difficulties that have a two-fold relationship (some factors such as education, and access to eye health services are associated with vision difficulty whilst vision difficulty may trap people in their current poverty or deepen their poverty status). The results are thus indicative of the need for further research in South Africa.

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Author affiliations

Kovin S. Naidoo, Brien Holden Vision Institute, Durban, South Africa; African Vision Research Institute, University of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa
Jyoti Jaggernath, African Vision Research Institute, University of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa; Vision Cooperative Research Centre, Sydney, Australia
Prasidh Ramson, Orbis, Cape Town, South Africa
Farai Chinanayi, Brien Holden Vision Institute, Durban, South Africa; African Vision Research Institute, University of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa
Tom Zhuwau, Department of Rural Development and Land Reform, South Africa
Lene Øverland, Orbis, Cape Town, South Africa


Vision impairment; poverty; War on Poverty Campaign;


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ISSN: 2223-9170 (print) | ISSN: 2226-7220 (online)

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