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To estimate the prevalence of refractive error in adults across Europe. Refractive data (mean spherical equivalent) collected between 1990 and 2013 from fifteen population-based cohort and cross-sectional studies of the European Eye Epidemiology (E(3)) Consortium were combined in a random effects meta-analysis stratified by 5-year age intervals and gender. Participants were excluded if they were identified as having had cataract surgery, retinal detachment, refractive surgery or other factors that might influence refraction. Estimates of refractive error prevalence were obtained including the following classifications: myopia ≤-0.75 diopters (D), high myopia ≤-6D, hyperopia ≥1D and astigmatism ≥1D. Meta-analysis of refractive error was performed for 61,946 individuals from fifteen studies with median age ranging from 44 to 81 and minimal ethnic variation (98 % European ancestry). The age-standardised prevalences (using the 2010 European Standard Population, limited to those ≥25 and <90 years old) were: myopia 30.6 % [95 % confidence interval (CI) 30.4-30.9], high myopia 2.7 % (95 % CI 2.69-2.73), hyperopia 25.2 % (95 % CI 25.0-25.4) and astigmatism 23.9 % (95 % CI 23.7-24.1). Age-specific estimates revealed a high prevalence of myopia in younger participants [47.2 % (CI 41.8-52.5) in 25-29 years-olds]. Refractive error affects just over a half of European adults. The greatest burden of refractive error is due to myopia, with high prevalence rates in young adults. Using the 2010 European population estimates, we estimate there are 227.2 million people with myopia across Europe.

Original publication




Journal article


European journal of epidemiology

Publication Date





305 - 315


Department of Ophthalmology, King's College London, St Thomas' Hospital, London, UK.


Humans, Refractive Errors, Prevalence, Odds Ratio, Risk Factors, Cross-Sectional Studies, Age Distribution, Sex Distribution, Adolescent, Adult, Aged, Middle Aged, European Continental Ancestry Group, Ethnic Groups, Urban Population, Europe, Female, Male