Survey finds Canadians aren’t wearing sunglasses enough, which can increase risk of cataracts

Many Canadians love basking in the sun during the long awaited summer months, but they’re not taking enough precautions to protect their eyes from damaging UV rays that can lead to cataracts, one of the four leading eye diseases. In time for UV Safety Awareness Month, a joint survey from the Canadian Ophthalmological Society and the Canadian Association of Optometrists reveals that just two-thirds of Canadians regularly wear sunglasses on a sunny day (64 per cent) or during the summer months (63 per cent), and only 33 per cent wear them all year long. If left untreated, cataracts can cause blindness.

“It’s important to protect our eyes from harmful UV rays all year long to decrease the risk of developing cataracts later in life,” says Dr. Phil Hooper, President of the Canadian Ophthalmological Society. “While this eye disease is more common in people over 60, young people are still at risk, so taking the necessary precaution now will only help decrease their chances of getting this eye disease in the future.”

The survey also revealed that younger Canadians may not be taking enough precaution in protecting their eyes from harmful UV rays. Only a third of respondents say that their children regularly wear sunglasses on a sunny day (33 per cent) or during the summer months (32 per cent), and only 13 per cent say their children wear them on a cloudy day, despite the fact that UV rays are still present.

Cataract is a clouding of the natural lens inside the eye which focuses the light on the back of the eye, and makes your vision blurry. They usually develop slowly, causing a gradual and painless decrease in vision. Some vision problems that cataracts can produce include: blurry vision, glare (particularly at night), frequent changes in eyeglass prescription, a decrease in colour intensity, or a  yellowing of images.

Over 2.5 million people in Canada are living with cataracts, and while the eye disease is most common in people over the age of 60, changes to the lens generally start around the age of 40. To determine if you have cataracts, your eye doctor will ask you about your medical history and the symptoms you have. They will also perform an eye exam and conduct a few tests:

  • Visual acuity test: This test helps your eye doctor see if you’ve had any worsening in your vision. You’ll be asked to look at an eye chart with different sizes of letters on it. Your doctor will test one eye at a time, with the other eye covered.
  • Slit-lamp examination: A slit lamp allows your eye doctor to view different parts of your eye (cornea, iris and lens) up close to see if there are any problems. This device is called a “slit lamp” because it uses a bright line of light to illuminate the different parts of your eye.

To learn more about the risk factors, diagnosis, and treatment of cataracts including the other four eye diseases, visit see the


An online survey of 2003 Canadians aged 18+ was completed between June 10th and June 21st, 2022, using Leger’s online panel. No margin of error can be associated with a non-probability sample (i.e. a web panel in this case). For comparative purposes, though, a probability sample of 2003 respondents would have a margin of error of ±2.2%, 19 times out of 20. Leger’s online panel has approximately 400,000 members nationally and has a retention rate of 90%.

About Canadian Ophthalmological Society

The Canadian Ophthalmological Society (COS) is the national, recognized authority on eye and vision care in Canada. As eye physicians and surgeons, we are committed to assuring the provision of optimal medical and surgical eye care for all Canadians by promoting excellence in ophthalmology and by providing services to support our members in practice. Our membership includes over 900 ophthalmologists and 200 ophthalmology residents. We work collaboratively with government, other national and international specialty societies, our academic communities (ACUPO), our provincial partners and affiliates and other eye care professionals and patient groups to advocate for health policy in Canada in the area of eye and vision health. The COS is an accredited, award-winning provider of Continuing Professional Development (CPD) through the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada (RCPSC) and is an affiliate of the Canadian Medical Association (CMA). For more information, visit