A Queen's University researcher has found for the first time how a simple pair of glasses can improve workers' productivity and reduce poverty to achieve a huge global productivity boost in sight.
The research trial observed groups of Indian tea pickers and showed that the provision of glasses improved their productivity by 21.7 per cent – and for those aged over 50 the increase was 31.6 per cent. This represents the largest ever recorded productivity increase from any health intervention.
If the improvement was replicated across India's crop industry it would mean an extra $20 billion in growth from productivity gains alone.
With 2.5 billion worldwide suffering from poor vision and no access to glasses, the research demonstrates the crucial role of glasses in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.
The findings – in a study called PROSPER [PROductivity Study of Presbyopia Elimination in Rural-dwellers] published in the Lancet Global Health today – will intensify the pressure on companies all over the world to ensure that their workers have access to glasses, which can cost as little as $1.50 to produce, and other eyecare treatments.
It will also add to the growing clamour for large companies who operate in poorer countries to provide free work-based sight tests, meaning the findings could have a game-changing impact on the way companies prepare their staff for work.
The research was sponsored by Clearly, a global campaign to bring clear vision to the 2.5 billion people worldwide denied it as quickly as possible. It was carried out in collaboration with VisionSpring, a social enterprise dedicated to providing affordable glasses across the world, and Orbis, a global organization fighting avoidable blindness worldwide.
Professor Nathan Congdon, the study's principal investigator and Chair of Global Eye Health at Queen's University Belfast as well as Director of Research at Orbis International, said:
"We thought it was crucial to demonstrate that performance even of tasks which may not seem obviously visual can be boosted so impressively by glasses.
"Nearly 90% of workers were still wearing their glasses by the end of the study and virtually all were willing to pay to replace them if needed– people knew they were benefitting from better vision."