Most respondents in the study across all ethnic and racial groups surveyed described loss of eyesight as the worst ailment that could happen to them, researchers said.

As the world's population and average life expectancy has increased, so has the prevalence of visual impairment and blindness, they said.

Adrienne W Scott from Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and colleagues analysed the results of an online countrywide poll of 2,044 US adults including non-Hispanic white individuals and minority groups to understand the importance and awareness of eye health in the US population.

Of the survey respondents, the average age was 46 years, 48 per cent were male, and 11 percent were uninsured. 63 percent reported wearing glasses.

Most individuals surveyed (88 percent) believed that good vision is vital to overall health while 47 per cent rated losing vision as the worst possible health outcome.

Respondents ranked losing vision as equal to or worse than losing hearing, memory, speech, or a limb, researchers said.

When asked about various possible consequences of vision loss, quality of life ranked as the top concern followed by loss of independence.
    
About 76 percent and 58 percent, respectively, identified sunlight and family heritage as risk factors for losing vision; only half were aware of smoking risks on vision loss.

"These findings underscore the importance of good eyesight to most and that having good vision is key to one's overall sense of well-being, irrespective of ethnic or racial demographic," researchers said.

The study was study published in the journal JAMA Ophthalmology.

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