I tend to assume everyone needs glasses or contacts, at least for reading or driving—which means I’m always surprised, and a little bit resentful, whenever I find out someone has perfect vision. It feels rude of them, honestly, not to have any embarrassing childhood photos of the unflattering glasses they picked out in elementary school. Everyone should always be getting dirt and hair in their eyes because years of contact use have diminished their blinking reflex.
But it turns out that my vague sense that poor vision is becoming more of a norm is correct. A new paper published in the journal Ophthalmology looks at worldwide trends in myopia (nearsightedness) by doing a meta-analysis of 145 studies involving 2.1 million total participants. It predicts that by the year 2050, 4.8 billion people will be nearsighted. That’s 49.8 percent of the world’s population. And 938 million people (9.8 percent) will have high myopia, where their nearsightedness puts them at risk for more serious eye problems, like glaucoma, cataracts, macular degeneration, and retinal detachment. For comparison, in 2010, 2 billion people had myopia (28.3 percent of the population) and 277 million people had high myopia (4 percent of the population).