PURPOSE. Few epidemiologic data are available on refractive status in elderly Asians. The purpose of the study was to determine prevalence and risk factors associated with refractive errors in a metropolitan elderly Chinese population in Taiwan. METHODS. A population-based survey was conducted in the Shihpai district of Taipei, Taiwan. A total of 2045 residents aged 65 years or more were randomly selected and invited to complete a comprehensive questionnaire and undertake a detailed ocular examination, including best corrected visual acuity and measurements of refractive error, using autorefraction. Of the subjects, 1361 (66.6%) participated in the ocular examination. Spherical equivalent (SE) was calculated in diopters (D), and data from right eyes were reported. RESULTS. The age- and sex-adjusted prevalence rates were determined for myopia (SE < -0.5 D, 19.4%; SE < -1.0 D, 14.5%), high myopia (SE < -6.0 D, 2.4%), hyperopia (SE > +0.5 D, 59.0%; SE > +1.0 D, 44.2%), astigmatism (cylinder < -0.5 D, 74.0%; cylinder < -1.0 D, 45.3%), and anisometropia (SE difference between right and left eyes > 0.5 D, 45.2%; SE difference > 1.0 D, 21.8%). The prevalence of myopia, astigmatism, and anisometropia significantly increased with age (all P < 0.01). The prevalence of hyperopia tended to decrease with age. There was no gender difference in prevalence rates in any type of refractive error, except that women had a higher rate of hyperopia (SE > +1.0 D) than men (P = 0.004). Multivariate regression analysis showed that myopia was weakly associated with higher educational level. The severity of lens nuclear opacity was positively associated with the rates of myopia and negatively associated with the rates of hyperopia. CONCLUSIONS. The prevalence of myopia in this elderly Chinese population is not much higher than in similarly aged elderly white populations, compared with a much greater difference in prevalence among younger Chinese versus white people. This suggests that changing environmental factors may account for the increased prevalence of myopia in younger cohorts of Chinese.
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