Association of Race, Ethnicity, and Socioeconomic Status With Visual Impairment in Adolescent Children in the US

Date Published:

2022 Oct 01


Importance: Although racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic disparities in visual impairment have been described in adults, few studies have focused on the adolescent population, which may provide insight into the emergence of vision health inequities. Objective: To describe visual health disparities among adolescent children in the US. Design, Setting, and Participants: This was a cross-sectional study of adolescents from the 2005 to 2008 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. Participants were aged 12 to 18 years with a completed visual function questionnaire and eye examination. Data analyses were conducted from January 19 to July 20, 2022. Main Outcomes and Measures: Outcomes included subjective (self-reported poor vision) and objective (visual acuity worse than 20/40 in the better-seeing eye) measures of visual function. Multivariable logistic and linear regression analyses were conducted to examine the association between the sociodemographic risk factors and each outcome, adjusting for age, sex, and other covariates. Results: The 2833 included participants (mean [SD] age, 15.5 [2.0] years; 1407 female participants [49%]) represent a survey-weighted 57 million US adolescent children, of whom 14% were non-Hispanic Black participants (876), 11% were Mexican American participants (828), 63% were non-Hispanic White participants (816), and 11% were other race and ethnicity (313). A total of 5% of participants (266) were not US citizens, and 19% (773) had a family income below the poverty threshold. There were increased odds of self-reported poor vision among Black (odds ratio [OR], 2.85; 95% CI, 2.00-4.05; P < .001), Mexican American (OR, 2.83; 95% CI, 1.70-4.73; P < .001), and low-income (OR, 2.44; 95% CI, 1.63-3.65; P < .001) adolescent children. Similarly, there were increased odds of visual acuity worse than 20/40 in the better-seeing eye among Black (OR, 2.13; 95% CI, 1.41-3.24; P = .001), Mexican American (OR, 2.13; 95% CI, 1.39-3.26; P = .001), and non-US citizen (OR, 1.96; 95% CI, 1.10-3.49; P = .02) participants. Conclusions and Relevance: In this nationally representative sample from 2005 to 2008, adolescent children identifying as Black, Mexican American, low-income, or non-US citizen were more likely to report poor subjective visual function and perform worse on objective visual acuity testing. A greater understanding of the underlying etiology of these disparities may yield opportunities for improving vision at the population level.

Last updated on 10/29/2022