Generations Don't See 'Eye to Eye' on Knowledge and Habits Surrounding Eye Health

American Optometric Association's Annual American Eye-Q® Survey Highlights the Importance of Eye and Vision Care

Sep 13, 2011, 09:00 ET from American Optometric Association

ST. LOUIS, Sept. 13, 2011 /PRNewswire/ -- According to the American Optometric Association's (AOA) annual American Eye-Q® survey, specific generations have different levels of knowledge and varying views and habits when it comes to eye and vision care. From seasonal eye allergies to UV protection to contact lens hygiene, the survey finds that the traditionalist (or silent) generation (1925-1945), baby boomers (1946-1964) and generations X (1965-1977) and Y (1978-1994) all vary in their eye and vision knowledge and habits.

"While there are differences in eye and vision health habits among the generations, the good news is most recognize that maintaining visual health through yearly, comprehensive eye exams is essential," said Teri Geist, O.D.

Contact Lenses

According to the 2011 American Eye-Q® survey, younger generations are the most diligent about following their doctor's contact lens wear and care instructions. Gen Y-ers, are the most likely to replace their daily disposable lenses on a daily basis as directed (43 percent), while baby boomers proved to be the greatest offenders, with 67 percent admitting to wearing lenses longer than recommended.  

"It's easy for patients to forget that contact lenses are medical devices and as such, should be handled with an appropriate level of caution," said Dr. Geist. "Clean and safe handling of contacts is one of the most important measures wearers can take to protect their sight."

Gen Y respondents also came out on top for appropriately storing their lenses, with nearly half (49 percent) reporting they replace their contact lens case every one to three months as directed. Baby boomers, however, have room for improvement with only 28 percent saying they replace their case every one to three months.

Americans of all ages have a lot to learn about cleaning their contact lenses, with nearly a fifth of generation X (19 percent) and Y (22 percent) making the mistake of soaking or cleaning contact lenses with water, compared to just 8 percent of baby boomers. Across the generational board, nearly one-third of respondents reported using rewetting drops to clean or disinfect their lenses.

Doctors of optometry remind patients about the importance of cleaning and rinsing lenses daily to remove mucus, secretions, films or deposits which may have accumulated during wearing, while disinfecting is required to destroy harmful germs. Water and rewetting drops do not disinfect lenses; in fact water can actually contaminate contacts.


Americans of all ages are using technology more than ever for entertainment, work and general communication, and the toll these technologies are taking on the eyes is apparent according to the American Eye-Q® survey. More than half of all respondents report experiencing eye strain or vision problems as a result of using technology. Gen Y-ers report seeing the greatest impact, with more than two-thirds (68 percent) reporting technology-related eye or vision problems. The American Optometric Association has identified this condition as computer vision syndrome (CVS), which leaves consumers vulnerable to problems like dry eye, eyestrain, neck and/or backache, light sensitivity and fatigue.

To help alleviate CVS symptoms, the AOA recommends practicing the 20-20-20 rule – every 20 minutes, take a 20 second break and look at something 20 feet away. According to the survey, Gen Y is the worst about taking visual breaks. The majority of Gen Y respondents take a visual break every few hours, instead of every 20 minutes as recommended. Americans can certainly be more diligent about changing their habits to improve problems such as eye strain, but optometrists can also offer help in the form of prescribing special computer glasses to minimize the symptoms of CVS.  Respondents from generation Y (24 percent) report visiting their eye doctor to discuss eye strain from use of technology compared to only 17 percent of baby boomers.

Additional Findings

Generations X (53 percent) and Y (60 percent) are nearly twice as likely to consider eye glasses a fashion accessory compared to the traditionalists (20 percent) and boomers (29 percent).

Generations X (45 percent) and Y (39 percent) are slightly more likely than traditionalists (30 percent) and boomers (35 percent) to suffer from seasonal eye allergies. According to the survey, the four most common reported symptoms associated with allergies are itchy eyes, watery eyes, dry eye and red/irritated eyes.

When it comes to knowledge about the visual effects from diseases such as diabetes and glaucoma, the traditionalists and baby boomers were slightly more informed than generations X and Y.  According to the survey, baby boomers (39 percent) and traditionalists (42 percent) have greater awareness that glaucoma can develop without early warning signs compared to 22 percent of generations X and Y. Likewise, baby boomers (47 percent) and traditionalists (58 percent) are more likely to correctly identify the absence of early warning signs or symptoms associated with diabetic eye disease compared to generation X (38 percent) and generation Y (43 percent).

Young women are making the mistake of sharing cosmetics, which can easily spread bacteria that can lead to an eye infection.  According to the American Eye-Q® survey, Gen Y females (30 percent) are the most likely to share eye makeup with someone else.

Gen X-ers (51 percent) are the group most likely to choose a pair of sunglasses based on the level of UV protection over other factors including cost or brand. They also tend to spend the most on sunglasses over other age groups.

Comprehensive Eye Exams

Yearly eye and vision examinations are an important part of preventive health care since many eye and vision problems have no obvious signs or symptoms.  Early diagnosis and treatment of eye and vision problems are important for maintaining good vision and eye health, and when possible, preventing vision loss.

"Regardless of age, a yearly eye exam is imperative to maintaining overall health," said Dr. Geist.  "Many people are unaware that comprehensive eye exams can also help detect disease elsewhere including diabetes, hypertension, cardiovascular disease, cancer and multiple sclerosis."

Even though there are generational differences in eye and vision health and awareness, the majority of respondents report seeing an eye doctor within the last year.  

Comprehensive, yearly eye exams are designed to:

  • Evaluate the functional status of the eyes, taking into account special vision demands and needs
  • Assess vision health and related systemic health conditions
  • Determine a diagnosis (or diagnoses)
  • Formulate a treatment and management plan
  • Counsel and educate patients about their visual, ocular and related systemic health care status, including recommendations for treatment, management and future care

The AOA's guidelines for receiving comprehensive eye exams begin early in life.  The AOA urges parents to bring infants six to 12 months of age to their local optometrist for a an assessment and then again for an exam at age three and age five before entering kindergarten.  Children and adults should receive yearly comprehensive eye exams, unless otherwise advised by an optometrist.

To find an optometrist in your area, or for additional information on eye and vision health, please visit

About the American Eye-Q® survey:

The sixth annual American Eye-Q® survey was created and commissioned in conjunction with Penn, Schoen & Berland Associates (PSB). From May 19 – 23, 2011, using an online methodology, PSB interviewed 1,000 Americans 18 years and older who embodied a nationally representative sample of U.S. general population. (Margin of error at 95 percent confidence level)

About the American Optometric Association (AOA):

The American Optometric Association represents approximately 36,000 doctors of optometry, optometry students and paraoptometric assistants and technicians. Optometrists serve patients in nearly 6,500 communities across the country, and in 3,500 of those communities are the only eye doctors.  Doctors of optometry provide two-thirds of all primary eye care in the United States.

American Optometric Association doctors of optometry are highly qualified, trained doctors on the frontline of eye and vision care who examine, diagnose, treat and manage diseases and disorders of the eye. In addition to providing eye and vision care, optometrists play a major role in a patient's overall health and well-being by detecting systemic diseases such as diabetes and hypertension.

Prior to optometry school, optometrists typically complete four years of undergraduate study, culminating in a bachelor's degree. Required undergraduate coursework for pre-optometry students is extensive and covers a wide variety of advanced health, science and mathematics. Optometry school consists of four years of post-graduate, doctoral study concentrating on both the eye and systemic health. In addition to their formal training, doctors of optometry must undergo annual continuing education to stay current on the latest standards of care. For more information, visit

Media Contact:  Kate Cox

SOURCE American Optometric Association