It's difficult to estimate how many people in the U.S. wear glasses because there are so many variables to consider. Some people only wear glasses to read, and others wear them only to drive. Many people only wear eyeglasses part of the time and contact lenses the rest of the time. Some sunglasses are prescription, and some are protection from the sun or simply a fashion accessory.
According to the Vision Council of America, approximately 75% of adults use some sort of vision correction. About 64% of them wear eyeglasses, and about 11% wear contact lenses, either exclusively, or with glasses. Over half of all women and about 42% of men wear glasses. Similarly, more women than men, 18% and 14% respectively, wear contacts. Of those who use both contacts and eyeglasses, 62% wear contact lenses more often.
Drugstores sell non-prescription glasses for reading; that is, anyone can buy them without seeing their eye doctor for an exam. Fourteen percent of Americans use these. The majority of people, about 85% of the American population, wear sunglasses. Some sunglasses are prescription and others are used only to protect the eyes from damage from the sun.
Approximately 30% of the American population is near-sighted, and must use glasses for activities such as driving and schoolwork. Near-sighted people have no trouble seeing things that are close to them, such as newspapers or needlework. About 60% of Americans are far-sighted; they have trouble reading or sewing without glasses, but can focus well at a distance. The majority of young people who wear glasses are near-sighted. As people age, they are more likely to need vision correction for far-sightedness. About 25% of people who wear glasses to see distances will end up needing reading glasses or bifocals as they get older. About one-third of people who wear glasses have astigmatism in one or both eyes. Astigmatism is when the shape of the cornea or lens of the eye affects vision.
Certain types of visual disturbances affect some races more frequently. Asian-Americans, for example, are more likely to be near-sighted than Caucasians or African-Americans. African-Americans have the lowest incidence of near-sightedness, but are more prone to cataracts and some other eye diseases. Eye problems, including the need to wear glasses, also can run in families.
Many famous people wear glasses, and for some, specs are a fashion accessory. Some famous celebrities who wear glasses include Johnny Depp, Elton John, and Groucho Marx. Other celebrities wear glasses even though they do not need them for vision correction. Drew Carey, for example, had laser surgery to correct his vision, but still wears eyeglasses as an accessory. Masaharu Morimoto, from the popular cooking show Iron Chef, wears non-prescription glasses at times.
With three-quarters of the population in specs, it is fortunate that there is a huge variety of eyeglass styles, shapes, and colors on the market. Contact lenses and laser surgery are available for those who prefer not to wear eyeglasses, but still want to see clearly.