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Girls’ Overall Self-Worth Improves With Contact Lens Wear, Study Shows


While both boys and girls experience value-added benefits beyond vision correction, girls experience stronger boost in self esteem with switch to contacts from glasses

Jacksonville, FL – Contact lenses improve the overall self-worth of girls, according to data drawn from a three-year multi-site study assessing the effects of glasses and contact lenses on the self-perception of nearsighted children ages eight to 11 years. The research, a unique collaboration between psychology and optometry, further demonstrates the value-added benefits of contact lens wear beyond vision correction.

“Girls are particularly vulnerable to social and psychological distress during the transitional years of early and middle adolescence and this data suggests that for girls, in particular, a switch from glasses to contact lenses may result in an improvement in self-perception,” according to Mitchell J. Prinstein, Ph.D., Professor and Director of Clinical Psychology, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and co-author of the Adolescent and Child Health Initiative to Encourage Vision Empowerment (ACHIEVE) Study.

“Research shows that compared with boys of the same age, adolescent girls suffer from low self-esteem. Youth who wear glasses are especially susceptible to a low sense of self-perception,” Dr. Prinstein told attendees during a recent meeting of the Society for Behavioral Medicine. “This study demonstrates that an intervention as simple as switching youths’ glasses to contact lenses can help boost girls¹ sense of self-worth and self-efficacy during this stage of their development.”

A total of 484 eight-to 11-year-old nearsighted children (59% female) participated in the ACHIEVE study, the largest randomized trial of its kind. In the study, conducted from September 2003 to October 2007 at five clinical centers in the United States, children were randomly assigned to wear spectacles (n=237) or contact lenses (n=247) for three years.

Researchers measured outcomes using the Self-Perception Profile for Children scale, a measurement tool employed in numerous studies in the development psychology and social development literature. The scale consists of five domain-specific sub-scales (Scholastic Competence, Social Acceptance, Athletic Competence, Physical Appearance, Behavioral Conduct) and one global measure of self-worth. Because it was expected that wearing spectacles might exacerbate unique vulnerabilities among girls, gender was examined as a moderator of results.

Change in Global Self-Worth was statistically significant over three years for both treatment groups, but the change was not significantly different between contact lens wearers and spectacle wearers except among girls who at baseline reported low levels of satisfaction with spectacles.

“Contact lenses provide collateral benefits to children beyond simply correcting their vision,” says Jeffrey J. Walline, O.D, Ph.D., Ohio State University College of Optometry and leader of the ACHIEVE study. “Contact lenses significantly improve how children feel about their physical appearance, acceptance among friends, and ability to play sports. Contact lenses even make children more confident about their academic performance if they initially dislike wearing glasses.”

Both doctors advise parents and eye care practitioners to look beyond the visual benefits of contact lens wear when choosing the most appropriate vision correction modality for children requiring vision correction.

The ACHIEVE study was supported by funding from Johnson & Johnson Vision Care, Inc. and The Vision Care Institute™, LLC, a Johnson & Johnson Company.


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