Statistics and Research

Cost of Vision Loss in New Zealand

A new report from Vision Research International shows the total costs of vision loss in New Zealand, including the total for lost well-being has increased to $3.74 billion in 2021, an increase of 33.6% since 2009. The economic and financial cost alone has escalated to $765 million over the past 12 years – an increase of 91.2%.

Cost of Vision Loss 2021 Report

Blindness and Low Vision in New Zealand – Latest statistics

It is estimated that 30,000 New Zealanders are blind, this means they have a visual acuity of 6/24 or less. Approximately 150,000 New Zealanders have low vision, this means they have a visual acuity between 6/12 – 6/23. When we combine these two numbers, the total number of people with severe to moderate functional vision loss is estimated to be 180,000.

Blindness in New Zealand by Age Group

  • 0-21: 2,700.
  • 22-64: 8,100.
  • 65-79: 4,500.
  • 80+: 14,700.

Most Common Eye Conditions in New Zealand

The most common eye conditions underlying blindness and low vision in New Zealand are age-related macular degeneration (AMD), diabetic retinopathy, glaucoma and cataracts. Significant numbers of Kiwis are affected by all of these – note though, that only a minority of Kiwis affected by each condition will also have blindness or low vision, as these conditions are generally progressive (vision deteriorates over time).

Age-related macular degeneration (AMD)

The leading cause of blindness and low vision is AMD. It is estimated that 207,000 Kiwis have AMD. It affects 35% of Blind Low Vision NZ clients. There are two types of AMD – dry and wet. 90% of AMD patients have dry AMD, 10% have wet AMD.

It is projected that by 2030, 352,000 Kiwis will have AMD.

Diabetic retinopathy

About 330,000 Kiwis have diabetes, and approximately 20-25% of those have diabetic retinopathy. Diabetic retinopathy is the leading cause of blindness and sight loss in New Zealanders under 50.

Almost all patients with type 1 diabetes and 60% of patients with type 2 diabetes will acquire diabetic retinopathy within 20 years of having the disease.


Glaucoma is estimated to affect some 91,000 Kiwis. This makes it the second most common cause of blindness and low vision in New Zealanders over 65. However, half of those with the condition are not aware they have it.


About 370,000 are estimated to have cataracts. Cataracts are the most common correctable eye disease causing blindness and sight loss in Kiwis. Around 30,000 cataract surgeries are performed every year in New Zealand. In over 95% of cases, surgery is successful.

VISION 2020’s Clear Focus

Clear Focus cover
Blind Low Vision NZ has partnered with VISION 2020 New Zealand to produce Clear Focus: The economic impact of vision loss in New Zealand in 2009.

Clear Focus identifies that vision loss cost New Zealand society $2.8 billion in 2009, and this figure is increasing each year. Without a focused effort on preventing sight loss, Clear Focus projects a rise in the number of New Zealanders over 40 who have vision loss from 125,000 to 174,000 by 2020. Direct health costs alone would more than double to $523 million by 2020, compared with $198 million in 2009.

Conducted by Access Economics, the Clear Focus research looks at the best available evidence to estimate the number of Māori and non- Māori New Zealanders with mild to severe vision loss.

Download Clear Focus (PDF)

Vision Rehabilitation in New Zealand

A study co-authored by Keith Gordon of CNIB into the number of people who could potentially need vision rehabilitation in New Zealand.

Download the abstract for the study (.doc).

Download the full study (.doc).