Ageing population lifts demand for optometrists

The ageing of the Australian population appears to be driving strong growth in the demand for optometry services, according to a report released today by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW).

Optometrist Labour Force 1999 shows that the number of Medicare services provided by optometrists increased by 30% between 1992-93 and 1998-99 to 3.9 million services annually.

Report co-author Anne Aisbett says that use of optometry services is highly related to age.

'The 1995 National Health Survey conducted by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) found that 47% of the population had an eyesight problem that was totally or partially correctable with glasses.

'For people aged 45-54 years, however, 85% had such problems, while the proportion was 94% for those aged 75 years or more. This compares with only 8% for people aged less than 15 years.

'The number of people in the older age groups is increasing at a faster rate than the population as a whole. Demand for optometry services is therefore projected to increase by 15% over the next 10 years, compared to an expected population growth of just under 10%.'

Optometrist Labour Force 1999 shows

that the optometrist workforce appears to be growing to keep pace with the demand. There were 2,787 optometrists providing Medicare services in 1998-99 compared with 2,255 counted by ABS at the 1996 census, and 1,816 at the 1991 census.

Optometrist Labour Force 1999 also found that:

  • Compared to the national average of 14.9 optometrists per 100,000 population in 1999, there were 15.7 optometrists per 100,000 population in New South Wales, 15.3 in Queensland and Tasmania, 14.9 in Victoria, 13.8 in Western Australia, 12.3 in the ACT, 12.2 in South Australia and 11.6 in the Northern Territory.
  • Capital cities had 16.8 optometrists per 100,000 population in 1999, compared with 13.2 in other metropolitan areas, 17.3 in rural centres with 10,000 people or more, and 6.0 in other rural and remote areas.
  • There were about 100 new graduates in optometry from Australia universities each year from 1989 to 1998, with just over half being women.

22 August 2000


Further information: Anne Aisbett, AIHW, tel. 02 6244 1186.
For media copies of the report: Publications Officer, tel. 02 6244 1032.