A recent survey shows that 45.3 percent of all the Italians aged 15 or more went to an optical store over the past 6 months. Of those who did so, 45.7 percent went there to buy sunglasses. An estimated 31 percent went to the optician to buy corrective glasses, and only 3.7 percent to get a new frame.

Commissioned by an Italian magazine, Optical, and conducted by Doxa on the telephone on a representative sample of 1,001 Italians, the survey also shows that their preference for sunglasses varies like in Spain with their age - not with sex. While 80.8 percent of the population over the age of 54 wear corrective glasses, only 39.1 percent wear sunglasses.

On the other hand, women represent a majority of the users of ophthalmic glasses in all age groups, with a share of 57.7 percent against 48.2 percent for the men. Again, women are in the majority among users of contact lenses. Of those who went to the optician in the last 6 months, 7 percent did so to buy contact lenses, with shares of 8.1 percent for women and 5.8 percent for men.

The proportion of contact lens wearers is highest - 11.1 percent - among Italians aged between 15 and 34. It declines to 7.9 percent among the 35-to54-year-olds, and it represents only 1.6 percent of the population for older people. Tinted contact lenses are bought now by 1.2 percent of the Italian population over the age of 15.

According to a more regular market study, commissioned by Assistalia to GfK, sales of contact lenses grew in Italy by 12 percent in 2001 to reach a level of more than 75 million worth e265 million. Daily disposable lenses rose by 20 percent,a nd together with other frequently replaceable models, they now represent 65 percent of the market. Sales of toric lenses grew by 40 percent.