To examine the prevalence and risk factors of refractive errors in a representative Korean population aged 20 years old or older.
A total of 23,392 people aged 20+ years were selected for the Korean National Health and Nutrition Survey 2008–2011, using stratified, multistage, clustered sampling. Refractive error was measured by autorefraction without cycloplegia, and interviews were performed regarding associated risk factors including gender, age, height, education level, parent's education level, economic status, light exposure time, and current smoking history.
Of 23,392 participants, refractive errors were examined in 22,562 persons, including 21,356 subjects with phakic eyes. The overall prevalences of myopia (< -0.5 D), high myopia (< -6.0 D), and hyperopia (> 0.5 D) were 48.1% (95% confidence interval [CI], 47.4–48.8), 4.0% (CI, 3.7–4.3), and 24.2% (CI, 23.6–24.8), respectively. The prevalence of myopia sharply decreased from 78.9% (CI, 77.4–80.4) in 20–29 year olds to 16.1% (CI, 14.9–17.3) in 60–69 year olds. In multivariable logistic regression analyses restricted to subjects aged 40+ years, myopia was associated with younger age (odds ratio [OR], 0.94; 95% Confidence Interval [CI], 0.93-0.94, p < 0.001), education level of university or higher (OR, 2.31; CI, 1.97–2.71, p < 0.001), and shorter sunlight exposure time (OR, 0.84; CI, 0.76–0.93, p = 0.002).
This study provides the first representative population-based data on refractive error for Korean adults. The prevalence of myopia in Korean adults in 40+ years (34.7%) was comparable to that in other Asian countries. These results show that the younger generations in Korea are much more myopic than previous generations, and that important factors associated with this increase are increased education levels and reduced sunlight exposures.