Nearly a fifth of Brits have felt embarrassed due to poor eyesight, study finds

Nearly a fifth of Brits (18%) have felt embarrassed in a social situation – due to struggling with their eyesight, a study has found.

A poll of 2,000 adults found that more than one in ten (11%) have been left red-faced after waving at a total stranger, believing it to be someone they knew.

And the same number have been left in an awkward situation with a person they do know – after walking right past them in a state of oblivion due to poor eyesight.

More than a third of those polled (35%) admit they sometimes feel self-conscious about their eyesight – with one in ten feeling embarrassed about having to hold a book at arm’s length to read the text.

And 13% have even been laughed at for holding a menu at a comically long distance away in order to make out the dishes.

A spokesman from Specsavers, which has created an elongated “reading arm” prototype which could help people that are long-sighted, said: “Visual impairment is extremely common, so it is a real shame that so many people get embarrassed about it.

“Inventing the reading arm was excellent fun, and while we’re sure many readers would find such a gadget useful, it shouldn’t be a substitute for taking eye health seriously and booking in with your optician for a check-up.

“Most people over the age of 40 start developing presbyopia or long-sightedness, but it can be easily corrected with the right pair of specs.”

Of those surveyed who have a visual impairment, 28% have the text on their devices set to a larger size so they can read it more easily – but nearly half of those (44%) have been mocked for their efforts.

A quarter (24%) of Brits find it difficult to read the small print on contracts or documents, and one in five (20%) have trouble making out the instructions and ingredients on the back of toiletries products.

But nearly half (43%) of those who do feel embarrassed about their eyesight have not been for an eye test or check-up in the last two years.

A third (34%) believe their eyesight has deteriorated over the last 10 years – but 34% of those have put off going to the opticians to get themselves tested.

And just one in five (20%) consider themselves to have no visual impairment whatsoever – with almost two-thirds (63%) citing minor to moderate sight issues.

Nearly six in ten (59%) have worn glasses at some point in their lives, while 41% have tried contact lenses.

Before taking part in the survey, half of respondents (51%) were unfamiliar with the term “presbyopia” – a sight issue associated with ageing, which causes nearby objects to gradually fall out of focus.

In the study, conducted by, 60% of those living with poor vision admit they took their eyesight for granted before it started to get worse.

And it seems working habits may be having an impact on eye health – with two in five (39%) claiming to have experienced eye strain at the end of the working day.

A fifth (21%) spend all day at their computer, while almost half (44%) spend most of the day in front of a screen completing their work.

On average, a typical Brit will spend six hours a day looking at screens – whether at work, for socialising, or for leisure.

The Specsavers spokesman added: “We hope that our reading arm raises a few smiles, but also raises awareness about vision issues, and encourages Brits to seek out their optician so their situation can be improved.”


  1. Stared at a label for a long time unable to make out the words
  2. Not recognised someone who’s waving at you
  3. Held a menu at a comically long distance away to read it while squinting
  4. Complained about the TV picture being blurry
  5. Waved at someone who you don’t know
  6. Held a book at a comically long distance away to read it
  7. Offended someone you do know by walking past them in the street
  8. Started a conversation with a total stranger thinking they were my friend/partner/family member
  9. Ordered the wrong thing from a fast-food restaurant because you couldn’t see the boards with the menu display properly
  10. Complained about light bulbs not being bright enough
  11. Made a bad typo
  12. Put clothes on inside-out
  13. Asked a stranger for help in a shop, thinking they worked there
  14. Mispronounced something on a menu
  15. Got startled by an inanimate object
  16. Accidentally interacted with someone’s social post you don’t know
  17. Asked a stranger to read a sign for you
  18. Misread meal ingredients completely wrong, leading to a disastrous dinner
  19. Patted a stranger on the bum thinking it was your partner
  20. Put on odd socks