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More than half (54%) of all Australians  report having at least one long-term eye health condition, with nearly half the population wearing glasses or contact lenses, according to data released today by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW).

Eye health conditions may be present from birth, may exist as a result of illness or injury, or may have developed over time due to ageing.

'In 2011-12, almost 12 million Australians reported having an eye health condition, with long- and short-sightedness the most commonly reported conditions, and there's been an increase in these conditions in recent years,' said AIHW spokesperson Mardi Ellis.

Between 2001 and 2012, the proportion of the population affected by long-sightedness rose from about 22% to 26%, while short-sightedness increased from around 21% to 23%.

The likelihood of having a long-term eye condition increased with age, with 95% of people aged 55 and over affected by an eye health condition, compared with 11% of those aged 0-14.

'Eye conditions were more common among females than males, and much more common among Indigenous Australians than non-Indigenous Australians,' Ms Ellis said.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people experience higher rates of preventable blindness and vision loss than other Australians, and are more than twice as likely as non-Indigenous Australians to have complete or partial blindness.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians are almost one and a half times more likely to have cataracts, but despite this, are less likely than other Australians to undergo cataract extraction surgery.

'Some improvements have been seen, however- cataract extraction among Indigenous Australians has increased from 5.6 per 1,000 population in 2010-11 to 7.3 per 1,000 in 2013-14, while the rate for other Australians remained steady,' Ms Ellis said.

The AIHW is a major national agency set up by the Australian Government to provide reliable, regular and relevant information and statistics on Australia's health and welfare.

Canberra, 15 December

Further information: Ms Mardi Ellis, AIHW, tel. 02 6244 1128, mob. 0423 630 893

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