Aim: To assess the utilization of eye care services by Australians most likely to benefit from eye assessment.
Methods: The Melbourne Visual Impairment Project was a population-based study that collected demographic, health and vision-related information including use of eye care services. A standardized detailed ophthalmic examination was performed. Utilization of eye care services by those who might most benefit from eye care was assessed and compared to the general population. These participants include those with undiagnosed glaucoma, unoperated visually significant cataract, undercorrected refractive error, diabetes mellitus, age-related macular degeneration and visual acuity < 6/12. Sociodemographic characteristics were assessed for their influence on eye care utilization among these participants.
Results: A total of 4744 urban and rural residents participated (86% of those eligible) and 4612 (83% of total eligible) of these had a complete data set for the use of eye care services and were included. There were 933 participants (20.2%) who did not report eye assessment in the previous 5 years, and 891 participants (19.3%) had one or more aforementioned conditions potentially benefiting from eye care. Of these, between 34.4% and 59.4% reported no examination in the previous year and between 9% and 25% reported no examination within the previous 5 years. These participants were more likely to seek eye care within the short term (1 year) if they had a family history of eye disease, otherwise a noticed change in vision was the main influence in the longer term (2–5 years). Male participants, younger participants and those whose main spoken language was not English were less likely to seek eye care in the longer term.
Conclusions: In Victoria 19% of those >40 years of age have potentially unmanaged eye disease including glaucoma, unoperated visually significant cataract, undercorrected refractive error, age-related macular degeneration, diabetes mellitus or visual acuity < 6/12. A substantial proportion of these report no eye assessment in the previous 1, 2 or 5 years or ever before. Younger age, male sex and main language other than English make assessment less likely. Many may have these conditions despite having had a recent eye assessment.