How Many Optometrists for Ontario?

There are more new optometrists entering practice in Ontario every year than the number that will likely be required to keep service levels stable, even taking into account the aging population. Unless Ontarians want, and are willing to pay for, increased levels of service, this probably means that there may be too many optometrists in the future.

McMaster Researcher


Leonard, P., Sweetman, A., & Zhang, X. (2014). Optometry Services in Ontario: Supply- and Demand-Side Factors from 2011 to 2036. Hcpol, 10(1), 60-72. doi:10.12927/hcpol.2014.23928

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What is this research about?

 Canada's aging population is likely to use more eye-care services. This research predicts how many new optometrists will be needed every year from 2011-2036 to maintain approximately the same level of service as provided in 2011.

What did the researchers do?

Researchers at McMaster University’s Department of Economics forecasted the expected number of these services by year from 2011 to 2036 (a demand-side estimate) and also predicted how many full-time optometrists are needed to provide those services (a supply-side estimate). The researchers estimated the level of demand for these eye-care services for 2011-2036 by taking the results from the 2010 Canadian Community Health Survey and projecting them forward using Statistics Canada's population growth estimates.  It is important to remember that this research measures the how much people use optometrists’ services, not how much they may need these services. Therefore, there could be a degree of need that is not captured by this analysis. The researchers also used the 2011 Health Professionals Database, which is a census collected by the Ontario Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care, to estimate the number of new optometrists that will be needed every year in Ontario during the 2011-2036 time period. Finally, they predicted the annual number new optometrists that will be needed to meet the demand in the projected period.

What did the researchers find?

The researchers found that:

  • To fulfill this need, 77 new optometrists are required every year in Ontario from 2011-2021, 87 from 2022-2026, and 92 from 2027-2036.
  • However, in the past two years, the number of new optometrists in Ontario has been growing by more than 100 per year. Every year, these optometrists come not only from Canadian schools, but also from schools in the United States and other countries. This trend is likely to continue from 2011-2036.

Conclusion: There is either a level of need for eye-care services that is not captured by this analysis or there may be too many optometrists in Ontario in the future.

How can you use this research?

Results from this research will be important to policy makers, educators, and optometry and related eye care associations. They should examine the processes by which new optometrists begin practicing in Ontario since the annual increase in the number of new practicing optometrists is likely to be greater than what will be needed to match the predicted demand for their services. Although this research examined only the optometry market in Ontario, similar trends may be present in other provinces.

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