Despite sun’s year-round presence, 2 in 5 think sunglasses, sunscreen only beneficial in summer

NEW YORK — This one might leaving you scratching your head. Despite the sun’s year-round presence, 39 percent of Americans — for some reason — mistakenly believe sunglasses are only for summer. A study of 2,000 Americans’ awareness of how to take protective measures to keep their eyes and body safe also finds that, similarly, 40 percent believe sunscreen is only for the summer.

While 72 percent of respondents are the most careful in the summer, slightly fewer (68%) claim they take protective measures every time they go outside – even if for a short period of time. For some, these measures include wearing sunglasses (62%) or staying hydrated (61%). For others, it’s applying sunscreen (53%) or wearing clothing that covers their skin (51%).

Conducted by OnePoll and commissioned by Maui Jim, the survey also finds that 42 percent of respondents admit they don’t think about how their eyes are being affected when spending a long time outside. Half say they spend upwards of five hours outside in the sun every week (51%) with those in the midwest (60%) and west (53%) being most likely to spend longer than five hours outside per week.

When it comes to their daily dose of sun, a third of respondents (34%) didn’t know they shouldn’t be spending more than the recommended 30 minutes outside in the sun every day. While their western counterparts get more sun, those in the northeast are more likely to wear sunscreen (56%) and tie with southwesterners (63%) when it comes to wearing sunglasses during everyday errands and activities.

However, two-thirds of respondents know that being out in the sun, even for short periods of time, can be damaging to their vision. and a similar percentage know it’s important to wear sunglasses even when it’s cloudy (64%).

Why should you wear sunglasses more often?

Still, nearly half of respondents who drive admitted they don’t always wear sunglasses when driving during the day (49%). Just a quarter know that yard work has an effect on their eyes too. Similarly, only 24 percent know that playing sports can affect your eyes, and just 29 percent could say they knew the same about drinking alcohol or using power tools.

Two-thirds of people have ignored signs of eye strain like watery eyes (20%) and headaches (19%) without realizing they’re related. Forty-four percent experience symptoms of eye strain at least once a week, with some of the least well-known symptoms including sore neck/shoulders (25%) and difficulty concentrating (28%).

Survey graphic: Vision damage from outdoors

“It’s critical to recognize the many environments and activities that can cause eye strain, both outside and indoors,” explains Diego de Castro, senior director of brand marketing at Maui Jim. “It’s important to protect your eyes wherever you are, with the help of everything from polarized sunglasses to blue light-filtering eyeglasses. Whether you’re spending time outside in the sun, taking a walk on a cloudy day, watching TV, or reading in a dimly lit room, our lives are full of moments where we exhaust our eyes and could opt for some extra protection.” 

Forty-five percent of respondents share that eye safety tends to fall to the back when they purchase sunglasses, usually prioritizing the way they look. 

Nearly 1 in 10 Americans have NEVER been to an eye doctor

Eye safety doesn’t stop outside though, and although 63 percent said it’s also necessary to protect your eyes while inside or on electronic devices, 58 percent still don’t wear glasses with blue light-filtering lenses while doing so.

It may be time to listen to the eye doctor’s orders since 38 percent said their eye doctor usually recommends sunglasses at each visit – but this may be difficult since a third of Americans haven’t seen an eye doctor in at least a year, and nearly one in 10 have never been to one.

“It’s important to remain cognizant of eye strain symptoms and to stay up to date on annual eye exams,” explains de Castro. “Thanks to advanced technology, like polarized sun lenses and blue-light protecting lenses, you can help protect your eyes from the potentially harmful effects of UV rays from the sun and blue light emitted from digital devices.”