Screen Savvy: An Eye Health Report for the Modern Workforce

March 18, 2024
How much does it cost to skip your yearly comprehensive exam with a doctor of optometry? New AOA report finds it could cost you $702.
Screen Savvy

Almost one in three people in the U.S., or nearly 104 million Americans, are exposed to seven or more hours of screen time each day.

When you think of screen time, it's easy to picture scrolling on social media, searching on the internet, gaming, or video calling friends and family. But the truth is that screen time isn’t just how we spend our free time, it also often makes up most of our workday too, meaning simply cutting down on screen time isn’t realistic.

However, just because it’s normal doesn’t mean it’s harmless. Those who spend greater time on screens are more likely to experience eye-related issues, including dry eyes, blurred vision, headaches, back, and neck pain – this collection of symptoms is also known as digital eye strain. Even as little as two hours of screen exposure per day can induce digital eye strain symptoms, which can range from mild discomfort to impacting a person’s quality of life. With this in mind, AOA set out to discover how much of an impact excessive and unmanaged screen time has on Americans.

The Report

Developed in partnership with Deloitte Economics Institute, AOA released a report called The impact of unmanaged excessive screen time in the United States which investigates the impact of screen time on Americans. This report uncovered that there was a notable impact on Americans who view screens for more than 7+ hours per day and neglected prioritizing their eye health by not visiting an optometrist in the last year. The impact was not only for individuals, but for companies and our overall healthcare system.

Symptoms associated with excessive unmanaged screen time cost $151 billion in health system, productivity, and wellbeing costs in 2023. Here is what else the report unearthed:

On an individual level:

  • Symptoms related to excessive screen time exposure could cost a person around $702 dollars per year.
  • Of the 32 million people who are exposed to excessive screen time and did not visit an optometrist within the last year, 55% experienced vision-related symptoms that may have improved or resolved from regular visits to the optometrist.
  • For people who spend time on computer screens for work, excessive unmanaged screen time accounts for $50.6 billion in total productivity losses in 2023 from workdays missed and reduced productivity. Excessive screen time could also cost healthcare systems about $1.2 billion each year.

Visiting an optometrist once per year could potentially save individuals who have unmanaged excessive screen time up to $1,920 each year. That could get you a daily latte for a year or a flight to Europe! Additionally, if the average American who experiences excessive screen time visited an optometrist once a year, it could earn $45.5 billion in productivity, and up to $26.3 billion in wellbeing improvement each year.

Download the full report

What You Can Do

There are several ways you can better protect yourself against digital eye strain:

  • Angle your computer 15 to 20 degrees below eye level (about 4 or 5 inches) as measured from the center of the screen, and 20 to 28 inches from the eyes so that you’re viewing downward.
  • Take a quick pause from your screen for 15 minutes after 2 hours of device use. Also keep in mind the 20-20-20 rule: for every 20 minutes of computer viewing, gaze at something 20 feet away for 20 seconds to give your eyes a much-needed break.
  • If you’re noticing your eyes feeling dry while using a computer, make sure to blink. Blinking keeps the front surface of the eye moist.
  • Schedule your yearly comprehensive exam with an AOA doctor of optometry.

To learn more about what you can do to safeguard your eyes while you work, download AOA’s Eye Health Guidance in the Workplace.

Download this infographic

Find a Doctor of Optometry
Related Articles

One Teen’s Life-changing Diagnosis from an Eye Exam

Robert and his family never expected an eye exam to identify the root of their son’s concerning health problems. What happened next shocked them.

Practicing healthy eye habits for the modern workplace with Cruz

Cruz Corral is a social media content creator and works full time in marketing. Juggling both roles, he finds himself spending long hours in front of a computer and phone screen, which has had an impact on his eye health. After experiencing how these symptoms affect his work and life, Cruz now has a lesson to share with his followers.