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Association of COVID-19 Infection With Wearing Glasses in a High-Prevalence Area in Denmark and Sweden

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To identify the key insights or developments described in this article
1 Credit CME
Key Points

Question  Does wearing eyeglasses protect against COVID-19 transmission?

Findings  In this cohort study of 2120 individuals who work at the same rescue corps, a lower COVID-19 prevalence was found among persons wearing glasses in Sweden (8.1% vs 12.6%) but not in Denmark (2.5% vs 2.2%). However, an association was not noted after adjusting for relevant confounding factors.

Meaning  These results provide inconclusive findings regarding whether wearing one’s own glasses is associated with a decreased risk of COVID-19 infections when adjusting for confounding factors.

Abstract

Importance  Observational studies have indicated that glasses might protect against contracting COVID-19 through reduced airborne and contact transmission.

Objective  To investigate the association between wearing one’s own glasses with contracting COVID-19 when adjusting for relevant confounders.

Design, Setting, and Participants  This cohort study was conducted during the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic (June to August 2020) in Denmark and Sweden, where personal protective equipment was not recommended for the general population at the time. Employees at Falck, an international rescue corps with different job functions (ambulance, health care, office, and field staff, firefighters, and roadside assistance) participated in the study.

Exposures  The main exposure was wearing glasses (also including contact lenses and reading glasses), which was assessed in a questionnaire. Persons wearing glasses were compared with those who did not wear glasses (ie, nonusers). To adjust for potential confounders, information on age, sex, job function, and number of workday contacts were included.

Main Outcomes and Measures  The outcome was COVID-19 infection before (positive polymerase chain reaction test) or during the study period (biweekly voluntary tests with a rapid test). The investigated hypothesis was formulated after collecting the data.

Results  A total of 1279 employees in Denmark and 841 in Sweden were included (839 [39.6%] female and 1281 [60.4%] male; 20.5% were aged <40 years; 57.0%, 40-60 years, and 22.5%, >60 years). Of these, 829 individuals (64.8%) in Denmark and 619 (73.6%) in Sweden wore glasses. Wearing glasses was inversely associated with COVID-19 infection in the Swedish cohort (odds ratio [OR], 0.61 [95% CI, 0.37-0.99]; P = .047; seroprevalence, 9.3%) but not in the Danish cohort (OR, 1.14 [95% CI, 0.53-2.45]; P = .73; seroprevalence, 2.4%). Adjusting for age, sex, job function, and number of workday contacts in Sweden, wearing glasses no longer was associated with COVID-19 infection (OR, 0.64 [95% CI, 0.37-1.11]; P = .11). When stratifying by job function, a large difference was observed among office staff (OR, 0.20 [95% CI, 0.06-0.70]; P = .01) but not ambulance staff (OR, 0.83 [95% CI, 0.41-1.67]; P = .60) nor health care staff (OR, 0.89 [95% CI, 0.35-2.30]; P = .81).

Conclusions and Relevance  While wearing one’s glasses was inversely associated with COVID-19 in Sweden in an unadjusted analysis, an association no longer was identified when adjusting for confounders. These results provide inconclusive findings regarding whether wearing one’s own glasses is associated with a decreased risk of COVID-19 infections.

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Article Information

Accepted for Publication: July 4, 2022.

Published Online: August 25, 2022. doi:10.1001/jamaophthalmol.2022.3234

Corresponding Author: Rasmus Gregersen, MD, Akutmodtagelsen, Bispebjerg Hospital, Ebba Lunds Vej 40A, bygning 67, 2. sal, 2400 Copenhagen, Denmark (rasmus.gregersen@regionh.dk).

Author Contributions: Ms Jacobsen and Dr Petersen had full access to all of the data in the study and take responsibility for the integrity of the data and the accuracy of the data analysis.

Concept and design: Jacobsen, Laursen, Iversen, Petersen.

Acquisition, analysis, or interpretation of data: Gregersen, Jacobsen, Laursen, Mobech, Ostrowski, Iversen, Petersen.

Drafting of the manuscript: Gregersen, Laursen, Petersen.

Critical revision of the manuscript for important intellectual content: Jacobsen, Laursen, Mobech, Ostrowski, Iversen, Petersen.

Statistical analysis: Jacobsen.

Obtained funding: Laursen, Iversen.

Administrative, technical, or material support: Gregersen, Laursen, Ostrowski.

Supervision: Gregersen, Laursen, Mobech, Ostrowski, Iversen, Petersen.

Conflict of Interest Disclosures: None reported.

Funding/Support: This work was financially supported by the Lundbeck Foundation (grant R349-2020-1172) and Falck A/S.

Role of the Funder/Sponsor: Falck A/S was involved in the design and conduct of the study, collection of the data, review and approval of the manuscript, and decision to submit the manuscript for publication. The Lundbeck Foundation was not involved in any parts of the study.

Additional Contributions: Jakob Riis, PhD (University of Copenhagen; CEO and president of Falck A/S), contributed to the study design (no compensation was received for study-related work). Camille Løve Andersen, BSc (project nurse at Falck A/S), contributed to data collection (no compensation was received for study-related work). Henrik Ullum, PhD (University of Copenhagen and CEO of Statens Serum Institut), contributed to study design, obtaining approvals, study initiation, and funding acquisition (compensation was not received).

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