Canadians are skipping regular eye exams despite available vision benefits

Data shows 1 in 4 Canadians who do not wear glasses have not had an eye exam in over 10 years, as almost half (46%) of Canadians who have vision benefits say they do not plan to use available coverage in 2022.

The results of a recent Specsavers Canadian Eye Exam Survey, conducted by Leger, included insights into the behaviour of Canadians and their habits when it comes to their eye health. One-in-four Canadians who do not wear corrective lenses have not had an eye exam in at least 10 years, including 10% of Canadians who have never had an eye exam. The reasons for not going for an eye exam more frequently include cost (33%) and no symptoms of vision loss (22%).1

“The findings are concerning because we know that many common eye diseases progress without symptoms and most vision loss is preventable and treatable when optometrists intervene early. With regular eye exams including Optical Coherence Tomography (OCT) patients can receive comprehensive information about their eye health,” says Naomi Barber, Director of Optometry, Specsavers Canada. “In the case of certain diseases, such as glaucoma or age-related macular degeneration (AMD), there are minimal early warning signs, meaning that by the time patients experience symptoms or notice a change to vision, the disease may be already advanced.”

As part of Specsavers’ commitment to accessible eyecare, and to better facilitate early detection of sight-threatening diseases, Specsavers makes OCT technology available as part of every comprehensive eye exam conducted by independent optometrists at Specsavers locations. The 3D eye scan using OCT technology is non-invasive and only takes a few seconds, allowing optometrists to assess the intricate structures of the eyes to identify and manage eye conditions such as diabetes related eye disease and glaucoma.

Fifty-seven percent of Canadians who do not wear glasses say that vision worsening over time would cause them to increase the frequency of seeking eye exams. Yet, many eye diseases progress symptom-less and 75% of vision loss is preventable and treatable if caught early.2

Initial Specsavers data reveals that approximately one-in-three Canadians have risk factors or signs of potential eye disease that can be detected using OCT technology.3 Health Canada recommends a routine eye exam every two years, and every year for Canadians under 18 and over 65. Specsavers suggests Canadians determine their recommended eye exam frequency with their health care provider.

Many provincial health care authorities provide additional coverage for those with underlying conditions.

Not all Canadians have access to vision benefits (39%) or are not aware of vision benefits (11%), but of those who do and are aware, almost half (46%) do not plan to use their coverage in 2022 for eye health or eye wear such as prescription glasses and contact lenses.4

“Eyecare is not necessarily a popular conversation around the dinner table but having these conversations with friends and family could really make a difference in improving health outcomes because early diagnosis is critical for effective treatment,” said Barber. “Most vision loss is preventable and treatable if caught early.”

In many provinces eye exams are covered for individuals under the age of 18 and over the age of 65 and for those with certain medical conditions or receiving social assistance. To learn more about each province visit:

Data Points

Canadian Eye Exam Frequency Surveys (Leger Survey – September and November, 2022):

  • While 80% of Canadians who wear glasses or contact lenses go for an eye exam every two years or less, only 46% of Canadians who do not wear glasses or contact lenses place the same importance on their eye health.
  • 16% of Canadians were over 31 years old when they had their first eye exam.
  • Canadians who do not wear glasses argue that deterrents, such as no eyesight issues or symptoms (28%), cost (29%), and inconvenience (10%) are reasons for putting off eye exams.
  • 39% of Canadians do not have vision or health benefits.

Methodology of Canadian Eye Exam Frequency Survey (Leger Survey – September, 2022):

An online survey of 1544 Canadians was completed between November 4-6, 2022, using Leger’s online panel.

No margin of error can be associated with a non-probability sample (i.e. a web panel in this case). For comparative purposes, though, a probability sample of 1544 respondents would have a margin of error of ±2.5%, 19 times out of 20

Specsavers Canada OCT Data:

From a sample of 8,200 British Columbians assessed by an independent optometrist at a Specsavers location between November 2021 and May 2022, 34% had risk factors or signs of eye disease detected or managed through use of OCT. This is based on the medical criteria for billing OCT through MSP (Medical Services Plan). Of the sample, optometrists detected and managed risk factors or signs of glaucoma in 23.5% of patients, and detected and managed risk factors or signs of diabetic retinopathy in 10.5% of patients.

Glaucoma Fighting Blindness Canada (May 2021):

  • Glaucoma affects more than 728,000 Canadians and takes the form of a number of related disease types.


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