Intended for healthcare professionals


Does amblyopia affect educational, health, and social outcomes? Findings from 1958 British birth cohort

BMJ 2006; 332 doi: (Published 06 April 2006) Cite this as: BMJ 2006;332:820
  1. J S Rahi, senior clinical lecturer1 (j.rahi{at},
  2. P M Cumberland, senior research fellow1,
  3. C S Peckham, professor of paediatric epidemiology1
  1. 1 Centre for Paediatric Epidemiology and Biostatistics, Institute of Child Health, London WC1N 1EH
  1. Correspondence to: J S Rahi
  • Accepted 30 January 2006


Objective To determine any association of amblyopia with diverse educational, health, and social outcomes in order to inform current debate about population screening for this condition.

Design, setting, and participants Comparison of 8432 people with normal vision in each eye with 429 (4.8%) people with amblyopia (childhood unilateral reduced acuity when tested with correction and unaccounted for by eye disease) from the 1958 British birth cohort, with respect to subsequent health and social functioning.

Results No functionally or clinically significant differences existed between people with and without amblyopia in educational outcomes, behavioural difficulties or social maladjustment, participation in social activities, unintended injuries (school, workplace, or road traffic accidents as driver), general or mental health and mortality, paid employment, or occupation based social class trajectories.

Conclusions It may be difficult to distinguish, at population level, between the lives of people with amblyopia and those without, in terms of several important outcomes. A pressing need exists for further concerted research on what it means to have amblyopia and, specifically, how this varies with severity and how it changes with treatment, so that screening programmes can best serve those who have the most to gain from early identification.


  • Embedded ImageTables A-D are on bmj.comFor archived data we thank the Centre for Longitudinal Studies (Institute of Education), National Birthday Trust Fund, National Children's Bureau, City University Social Statistics Research Unit, and the Data Archive distributor, SN:3138, Colchester. Research at the Institute of Child Health and Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children NHS Trust benefits from R&D funding received from the NHS Executive. We thank David Taylor for commenting on an earlier version of this manuscript. JSR holds a joint appointment with the Institute of Ophthalmology, London.

  • Contributors All authors contributed to the design, analysis, and interpretation of data and writing of this article and have given final approval of the version to be published. JSR is the guarantor.

  • Funding The work reported here was supported by a project grant from the BUPA Foundation, which had no role in the design or conduct of the study or in the decision to publish.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Ethical approval This study is part of a broader programme of work approved by the Institute of Child Health's Research Ethics Committee.

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