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HomeminewsBurden of Middle Age Puts Australians at Risk of Eye Disease

Burden of Middle Age Puts Australians at Risk of Eye Disease

Middle-aged Australians who are juggling work with caring for children, grandchildren and even their parents, could be at increased risk of eye disease, simply because they don’t take the time to have a regular eye health check.

Just 6 per cent of Australians, aged 50-64 who care for a parent or grandchildren, say an eye disease check is their top health check priority,1 according to findings from a study conducted by Macular Disease Foundation Australia. Among people who provide weekly care for grandchildren, an ‘eye disease’ check was ranked at the bottom of the list, equal with a ‘hearing’ check.

Comedian Jean Kittson, falls into the 75 per cent of Australians aged 50-64 years who provide weekly care and support to older parents in some way. Ms. Kittson juggles her family and work commitments with the welfare of ageing parents in their 90s. “Many people my age find themselves in this ‘sandwich’ situation and are often doing more caring for family members than they expected and consequently are putting their own health and wellbeing needs further down the ‘to-do’ list,” said Jean.

“I manage my health primarily because my family and I are a team.”

Macular Disease Foundation Australia Patron Ita Buttrose said it was concerning that the research showed the prioritisation of eye health was extremely low. “This at risk group of Australians clearly is not heeding preventative health messages. They are juggling family, possibly career and community activities, while trying not to let down those around them. However, they could be letting themselves down by not investing time in their own eye health.”

Key Findings

  • 70 per cent of Australians aged 50-64 years, both men and women, are providing weekly care to elderly parents or grandchildren.
  • 60 per cent of people caring for a parent weekly stated they undertook caring activities that include driving parents to appointments / social engagements and helping at home with cooking, cleaning, gardening and maintenance.
  • 78 per cent of females and to 71 per cent of males are caregivers of parents
  • 57 per cent of people caring for parents stated providing weekly care had an adverse effect on their own health.
  • 60 per cent of people caring for grandchildren said providing this weekly care had an adverse effect on their own health.

Macular Disease Foundation Australia CEO Julie Heraghty said optometrists and ophthalmologists have a strong role to play in reminding patients and their carers of the importance of a regular eye check.
“Our research undertaken for Macular Degeneration Awareness Week highlights that often, when people care for a loved one, they push their own needs aside. We urge eye health professionals to take the opportunity to remind carers of the need to look after their own health as well as that of the person they care for and to refer them to the Foundation to help them in their journey to save sight.”

1. Consumer survey conducted by Galaxy Research,
2-6 March 2017, N = 1,012.