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Study findings show boost of income in first-time wearers of reading glasses


Results from the THRIVE study found that when reading glasses were given to first-time wearers, monthly median incomes increased by 33%.

Man with glasses reading newspaper Image Credit: AdobeStock/SydaProductions

Image Credit: AdobeStock/SydaProductions

New research finds that obtaining a pair of reading glasses increases the earnings of people living in low-income communities by 33%. The findings came from the Tradespeople and Hand-workers Rural Initiative for a Vision-enhanced Economy (THRIVE) study, a randomized controlled trial conducted by VisionSpring, BRAC, and Queen’s University Belfast in the United Kingdom, according to a news release. The study involved 824 people from 15 rural districts of Bangladesh.1

“I’m excited to announce the findings of the THRIVE study, showcasing the transformative power of a simple yet profound intervention like reading glasses,” Asif Saleh, executive director of BRAC, said in a news release. “This landmark research underscores what we at BRAC have always believed—that empowering individuals with even the most basic tools can catalyze immense change. Through initiatives like this, we reaffirm our commitment to providing tools toward sustainable prosperity for everyone.”

First-time wearers of reading glasses were found to increase monthly median income from US$35.30 to US$47.10 in 8 months, whereas the control group showed no increase in income. Additionally, income increases were higher for those who were not working at the start of the study. According to the release, this suggests that reading glasses helped economically inactive people return to work. Participants also experienced a 16% improvement on a near-vision quality-of-life index, which measured the participants’ sense of independence in doing daily tasks.1

Reading glasses didn’t just improve incomes for participants who are literate. With 35% of participants having literacy skills, reading glasses were also able to help people accomplish household and work tasks, including threading a needle, weaving, and sorting grain.

“[Findings from] the THRIVE study reveal that the simple intervention of reading glasses yields outsized impact in terms of income. We encourage governments, philanthropists, development agencies, and the private sector to invest in vision correction as livelihood interventions,” Ella Gudwin, CEO of VisionSpring, said in the release. “This evidence-based investment will boost individuals’ earnings as well as generate increased economic output and productivity that is good for communities and the wider economy.”

Results from the study also found that there is a substantial need in rural Bangladesh for near glasses, with 50% of participants aged 35 to 65 years identified to have presbyopia. These basic sight tests were conducted by nonmedical personnel, which highlights an opportunity to increase access to vision care in low-income communities by expanding training to nonmedical personnel, such as community health workers, the release stated.

“The findings of the THRIVE study demonstrate the power of reading glasses in helping reduce poverty,” Nathan Congdon, MD, MPH, Ulverscroft chair of Global Eye Health at Queen’s University Belfast, said in the release. “For the cost of only a few dollars a pair, reading glasses have a significant and sustained impact on an individual’s earnings and help others get back into work. Where people are vulnerable to poverty, we can have an immediate and dramatic impact on livelihoods through this extremely simple and cost-effective intervention.”

  1. Reading glasses boost income by a third in low-income communities.. News release. BRAC. April 3, 2024. Accessed April 15, 2024. https://bracusa.org/new-report-reading-glasses-boost-income-by-a-third-in-low-income-communities/

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