25 June 2020

College survey shows 22 percent of people noticed their vision get worse during lockdown

Survey published as optometric services expand across England to offer wider care to patients

As lockdown restrictions ease and optometrists are widening the range of services available to patients across England and Wales, the College of Optometrists has published survey results showing a significant number of people felt their vision got worse during lockdown. The research, conducted by independent research agency Opinium on behalf of the College, showed the following results: 

  • 22 percent of people noticed their vision get worse during lockdown 
  • 32 percent of people believe that spending more time in front of screens has worsened their vision. This was a particular concern for those aged between 18 and 34, with 42 percent feeling screen time caused their vision to deteriorate 
  • Of those who noticed their vision get worse but didn’t see an optometrist during lockdown, 29 percent felt that their problem was not serious enough to warrant a visit
  • 59 percent of people are concerned about contracting coronavirus when it comes to an upcoming visit to their optometrist

Dr Susan Blakeney FCOptom, Clinical Adviser for The College of Optometrists said: “We know that many people will be concerned about vision changes during lockdown and many felt their vision changes were not serious enough to see an optometrist. It is very important that if your vision has deteriorated or if you are experiencing a red or painful eye you should telephone your local optometrist. They will be able to arrange a telephone consultation to help you get to the bottom of your problems and if needed they will arrange a face to face consultation.

“We know from research that 59 percent of people are concerned about contracting coronavirus when visiting their optometrist. However, optometric practices have made significant changes to ensure that eye care can be delivered to the high standards of safety that the public expect. Optometrists in England and Wales will be expected to comply with College guidance on social distancing, adapting the sight test, observing hygiene control measures and wearing personal protective equipment, such as medical face masks, during the consultation. We have created a video to show you what to expect at your optometric practice when you visit, so you might like to look at that if you need to see your optometrist in person.

“The research also showed us that many people believed that spending more time in front of screens has worsened their vision, although this may feel like eye strain it’s not likely to have a lasting impact and I would encourage you to follow our advice on avoiding eye strain if you are concerned.”

To find your local optometrists, visit our directory on our website LookAfterYourEyes.org

Optometrists in Scotland are providing emergency care. Optometrists in Northern Ireland are providing urgent and essential care.

The College of Optometrists advice on avoiding eye strain:

  • Apply the 20-20-20 rule – every 20 minutes look at something 20 feet away for 20 seconds. That will give your eye muscles a rest
  • Try to blink regularly
  • Position your device screen so that it is between 40 and 75cm from your eyes and is held below the level of your eyes 
  • Use a text size that is easy to see. Make things larger if needed
  • Avoid using a screen when very tired
  • If you are affected by dry eye, consider using lubricating eye drops. 

The College has created a video which explains what patients can expect and how they can prepare for a visit to their optometrist which is available on the College YouTube site


Note to Editors

  1. The College is the professional body for optometry. We qualify the profession and delivers the guidance and training to ensure optometrists provide the best possible care. We promote excellence through the College’s affixes, by building the evidence base for optometry, and raising awareness of the profession with the public, commissioners, and health care professionals.
  2. The survey results are from an online survey conducted by Opinium, with a sample of 2,000 nationally representative UK adults (18+), fieldwork took place from 9th to 11th June 2020. Results are available below.

Download the survey results

Related further reading

For the very last issue of Optometry in Practice, Professor Jonathan Jackson MCOptom reflects on the past two decades of the journal and its contribution to our learning.

This article describes sleep and its regulation, and the specific contribution of the eye.

This paper describes how viruses infect, reproduce and damage cells. Knowing this process is critical for understanding how to treat ocular viral infections.