Population projections are based on the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2012 National Population Projection files. The 2014 US population projection is 318.9 million persons. This is projected to grow to 363 million by 2032 and 400 million by the year 2050. As the population grows, the components of the population are expected to shift. We include four race/ethnicity groups; white alone, black alone, Hispanic of any race, and all others as shown in Figure 2.1. The population of white alone is expected to decrease, while the population of minorities will increase until the total minority population exceeds that of whites by 2042, spearheaded by the near doubling of the Hispanic population. This shift in the racial composition of the population will lead to changes in the relative prevalence of eye diseases towards those that disproportionately affect minorities.
Figure 2.1. Projected Population, by Race
The population will also change in terms of the distribution of age groups. The aging of the baby boomers will have a major impact on the prevalence and costs of vision and eye disorders in the coming decades as they move into the Medicare program and age through their 60’s, 70’s and 80’s. Figure 2.2 shows the age distribution of the US population in 2014, 2032 and 2050. In 2014, the baby-boomer bulge is clearly visible from about ages 50 to 70. By 2032, this bulge has shifted right to ages 68-88 and is entirely in the Medicare eligible age range. By 2050, the overall population is visibly higher, but most pronounced is the increase in the population older than the mid 80’s. The group of those aged 90 and older is projected to be by far the fastest growing population segment, with their population more than tripling due to both the aging baby-boomers and increasing longevity. The very high prevalence and costs of eye disorders in the population, in addition to their high rates of placement in long-term care facilities has important implications for burden and cost projections.