GBVI – Global Estimates of Distance Vision Impairment

Rupert Bourne - Vision Loss Expert Group

Serge Resnikoff

Peter Ackland - IAPB

GBM roundelGlobal estimates of distance-vision impairment
This section focusses upon the Vision Loss Expert Group (VLEG) estimates for the year 2015 and the changes over the period 1990 to 2015. Click here for the section which focuses upon the VLEG estimates for future years up to 2050.
A summary of the global numbers and prevalence estimates for distance-vision loss made by the VLEG for the year 2015 is shown in Table 2 below.

Table 2 – Summary of the global estimates of distance-vision loss in 2015
World Population
BlindModerate & Severe
Vision Impairment
Mild Vision
Prevalence Number
Prevalence Number

The Vision Loss Expert Group (VLEG) estimates that globally, in 2015, the total number of people visually impaired i.e. affected by blindness or by moderate/severe visual impairment (MSVI), was 253 million.

  • The number of persons who are blind is estimated to be 36 million.
  • The total number of persons who have MSVI in the world is estimated to be 217 million, of which 47 million are severe and 170 million are moderate.
  • In 2015, the global population was 7.33 billion. The crude prevalence of people that have visual impairment is 3.44% (0.49% blindness; 2.95% MSVI).
  • The VLEG have also estimated the number of people with a mild visual impairment. In 2015 the global figure was 189 million, representing a crude prevalence rate of 2.57%.

A number of different eye conditions contribute to these numbers – see the Causes section here.



Table 1 – Definitions of Visual Acuity as used in the estimations by the Vision Loss Expert Group (VLEG), in its 2015 study
LevelPresenting Visual Acuity in the Better Eye
+ These four levels relate to distance-vision impairment
* Data for moderate and severe vision impairment is often combined to give a total for these two levels known as MSVI
Mild Vision Impairment+<6/12 but ≥6/18
<20/40 but ≥20/70
<0.5 but ≥0.3
Moderate Vision Impairment+*<6/18 but ≥6/60
<20/70 but ≥20/200
<0.3 but ≥0.1
Severe Vision Impairment+*<6/60 but ≥3/60
<20/200 but ≥20/400
<0.1 but ≥0.05
Near-Vision ImpairmentNear vision worse than N6 or N8 at 40cm and best corrected visual acuity better than 6/12 (20/40, 0.5)

The term ‘visual impairment’ is used in this chapter and elsewhere in the IAPB Vision Atlas. It refers to the total of Blindness + MSVI; i.e. all persons presenting with a visual acuity <6/18. This figure is important as previous global estimates, much of the literature, and various World Health Assembly resolutions, including WHA res.66.4 Universal Eye Health a Global Action Plan 2014 – 2019, have focussed upon the elimination of avoidable sight loss within those people that are blind or have MSVI, due to distance-vision loss. Please see here for a full explanation of all Visual Acuity levels.

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