To study spectacle wear among rural Chinese children.
Visual acuity, refraction, spectacle wear, and visual function were measured.
Among 1892 subjects (84.7% of the sample), the mean (SD) age was 14.7 (0.8) years. Among 948 children (50.1%) potentially benefiting from spectacle wear, 368 (38.8%) did not own them. Among 580 children owning spectacles, 17.9% did not wear them at school. Among 476 children wearing spectacles, 25.0% had prescriptions that could not improve their visual acuity to better than 6/12. Therefore, 62.3% (591 of 948) of children needing spectacles did not benefit from appropriate correction. Children not owning and not wearing spectacles had better self-reported visual function but worse visual acuity at initial examination than children wearing spectacles and had a mean (SD) refractive error of −2.06 (1.15) diopter (D) and −2.78 (1.32) D, respectively. Girls (P < .001) and older children (P = .03) were more likely to be wearing their spectacles. A common reason for nonwear (17.0%) was the belief that spectacles weaken the eyes. Among children without spectacles, 79.3% said their families would pay for them (mean, US $15).
Although half of the children could benefit from spectacle wear, 62.3% were not wearing appropriate correction. These children have significant uncorrected refractive errors. There is potential to support programs through spectacle sales.