Uncorrected myopia or nearsightedness cost the world economy some $244 billion in lost productivity in 2015, and this eye disorder is said to be mostly prevalent in Asia.

Some 538 million people suffer from vision impairment resulting from uncorrected myopia, said a new study published in the March issue of the scientific journal, Ophthalmology. The study said the East Asia region, which includes China, was hit hardest by productivity losses of $150 billion.

South Asia and South East Asia also experienced significant productivity loss at over $30 billion each. Taken as a whole, these regions represent more than 1 percent of GDP in each of the three regions.

"On current trends we expect there will be 2.6 billion people with myopia globally in 2020,” study co-author Tim Fricke from the Brien Holden Vision Institute said.

“While the majority will have access to corrective lenses such as spectacles and contact lenses, enabling them to have good vision, current service capacity will leave well over half a billion people unable to access an eye examination and appropriate correction."

He noted the impact of vision impairment on lives can be substantial, including its effects on employment, education and social interaction. The study captures the scale of the economic burden imposed by uncorrected myopia.

For a single health condition to result in a loss of over 1 percent of GDP is enormously important, said Fricke. The findings also serve to highlight the potential value in funding the interventions needed to eliminate this unnecessary impairment.

A combination of factors explains the substantial burden in East Asia, according to Prof Padmaja Sankaridurg, Head of Myopia at Brien Holden Vision Institute. She said the high-density urban living with a focus on near based activities has resulted in the high prevalence of myopia and also in a large number of people with inadequate visual correction.

She also said the study demonstrates a need for funding to be either prioritized or sourced to allow the successful implementation of these efforts.

The study said a one-off investment of around $20 billion will establish the services necessary to provide vision correction to all who need it, potentially leading to a significant annual savings in productivity.

A man with new eyeglasses
A man with new eyeglasses Twitter