Ophthalmology Census 2021: A Demographic Characterisation of Ophthalmologists in Portugal


  • Paula Martins Leitão College of Ophthalmology. Portuguese Medical Association. Lisbon; Department of Ophthalmology. Associação Protectora dos Diabéticos de Portugal. Lisbon. https://orcid.org/0000-0003-0545-635X
  • Sandra Oliveira Santarém Higher School of Management and Technology. Instituto Politécnico de Santarém. Santarém; Life Quality Research Centre. Instituto Politécnico de Santarém. Santarém; Center for Innovation in Biomedicine and Biotechnology. Universidade de Coimbra. Coimbra. https://orcid.org/0000-0003-4925-9227
  • Ana Miranda College of Ophthalmology. Portuguese Medical Association. Lisbon; Department of Ophthalmology. Hospital Garcia de Orta. Almada.
  • Carla Vivas Research Center. Instituto Universitário Militar. Lisbon. https://orcid.org/0000-0003-3694-8541
  • João Nascimento Santarém Higher School of Management and Technology. Instituto Politécnico de Santarém. Santarém. https://orcid.org/0000-0002-4283-5829
  • Susana Leal Santarém Higher School of Management and Technology. Instituto Politécnico de Santarém. Santarém; Center for Innovation in Biomedicine and Biotechnology. Universidade de Coimbra. Coimbra. https://orcid.org/0000-0002-8796-8289
  • Joana Tavares Ferreira College of Ophthalmology. Portuguese Medical Association. Lisbon; Department of Ophthalmology. Centro Hospitalar Universitário de Lisboa Norte. Lisbon. https://orcid.org/0000-0002-2237-3962
  • Augusto Magalhães College of Ophthalmology. Portuguese Medical Association. Lisbon; Department of Ophthalmology. Centro Hospitalar Universitário de São João. Oporto.




Ophthalmologists/statistics & numerical data, Ophthalmology, Portugal, Surveys and Questionnaires


Introduction: Human resources in ophthalmology have recently received particular attention, and it has been questioned whether there is a sufficient number of workers. The aim of this study was to analyze and characterize Portugal’s ophthalmologist population.
Methods: In this descriptive, cross-sectional study, an online questionnaire was sent to all ophthalmologists registered with the Portuguese College of Ophthalmology in December 2021. Information on the following variables was collected and analyzed: demographic factors, professional qualifications, professional activity, weekly professional activity and medium-term plans.
Results: Among the 910 registered ophthalmologists, a response rate of 64.7% was achieved. There were 0.9 ophthalmologists for every 10 000 inhabitants, 0.45:10 000 working in the public sector (0.35:10 000 full-time equivalent). Among the respondents, 57.6% were over 50 years old (59.6% male), 97.3% were Portuguese, 46.7% completed their residency in the Lisbon region, 27.3% complemented their programme with additional training, 9.5% had a PhD and approximately 58% lived and worked in large urban centres. Regarding professional activity, 58.5% of the respondents worked in the public sector (4.2% exclusively), while 67.9% worked in different economic sectors. The median number of weekly working hours reported was 45 hours, with those in the public sector reporting 35 hours. Private/social sector work and public sector work accounted for 12 926 hours/week and 10 808 hours/week, respectively. It was found that 31.4% of the respondents provided emergency medical services and that 52.8% performed surgical procedures more than once a week. Looking ahead, 38.7% of the ophthalmologists intended to reduce their workload within the next five years due to family reasons, fatigue and demotivation. The projected rate of retirement or cessation of activity in the next five years was estimated to be 1.7%, while an average of 20 new ophthalmologists are expected to enter the profession annually, resulting in a generational balance of 0.8%.
Conclusion: While the number of ophthalmologists in Portugal meets the international recommendations, there is a shortage in the public sector and most ophthalmologists work in large urban centres. The number of ophthalmologists in Portugal is expected to be stable for the next five years.


Download data is not yet available.


Correia T, Gomes I, Nunes P, Dussault G. Health workforce monitoring in Portugal: does it support strategic planning and policy-making? Health Policy. 2020;124:303-10. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.healthpol.2019.12.014

Jambroes M, van Honschooten R, Doosje J, Stronks K, Essink-Bot ML. How to characterize the public health workforce based on essential public health operations? environmental public health workers in the Netherlands as an example. BMC Public Health. 2015;15:750. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1186/s12889-015-2095-5

Diallo K, Zurn P, Gupta N, Dal Poz M. Monitoring and evaluation of human resources for health: an international perspective. Hum Resour Health. 2003;1:3. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1186/1478-4491-1-3

Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. Health at a Glance 2021: OECD Indicators. OECD. 2021. [cited 2022 Nov 09]. Available from:


Michas F. Number of ophthalmologists per population in Europe 2020. Statista. 2021. [cited 2023 Mar 12]. Available from: https://www.statista.com/statistics/711061/number-of-ophthalmologists-in-european-union-eu/.

Ministério da Saúde. Actuais e futuras necessidades previsionais de médicos (SNS) 2011. Administração Central do Sistema de Saúde 2011. [cited 2023 Feb 12]. Available from: https://saudeimpostos.files.wordpress.com/2011/10/actuais-e-futuras-necessidades-previsionais-de-mc3a9dicos-snsacss-9-2011.pdf.

Santana P, Peixoto H, Duarte N. Demography of physicians in portugal: prospective analysis. Acta Med Port. 2014;27:246-51. DOI: https://doi.org/10.20344/amp.5183

Magalhães A, Falcão M, Campos N, Monteiro Grillo M, Murta J, Breda J, et al. The national strategy for eye care. Rev Soc Port Oftalmol. 2018;42.

Yu M, Keel S, Mariotti S, Mills JA, Muller A. Development of the WHO eye care competency framework. Hum Resour Health. 2023;21:46. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1186/s12960-023-00834-4

Dussault G, Dubois CA. Human resources for health policies: a critical component in health policies. Hum Resour Health. 2003;1:1. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1186/1478-4491-1-1

Pick ZS, Stewart J, Elder MJ. The New Zealand ophthalmology workforce 2008. Clin Exp Ophthalmol. 2008;36:762-6. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1442-9071.2008.01874.x

Hingorani M, Harcourt J. Workforce Census 2018. London: The Royal College of Ophthalmologists; 2018.

Maclennan PA, McGwin G Jr, Searcey K, Owsley C. A survey of Alabama eye care providers in 2010-2011. BMC Ophthalmol. 2014;14:44. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1186/1471-2415-14-44

Micieli JA. Geographic distribution of ophthalmologists in Ontario: a 10-year review. Can J Ophthalmol. 2014;49:283-6. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jcjo.2014.01.006

Department of Health and Aged Care. Australia’s Future Health Workforce report. Canberra: DHAC; 2018.

Jones TL, Baxter MA, Khanduja V. A quick guide to survey research. Ann R Coll Surg Engl. 2013;95:5-7. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1308/003588413X13511609956372

Instituto Nacional de Estatística. Censos 2021. 2021. [cited 2023 Oct 03]. Available from: https://censos.ine.pt/scripts/db_censos_2021.html.

Fundação Francisco Manuel dos Santos. Recursos Humanos: médicos por especialidade 2021. [cited 2022 Nov 02]. Available from: https://www.pordata.pt/portugal/medicos+nao+especialistas+e+especialistas+por+especialidade-147-3538.

Phillips AW, Friedman BT, Utrankar A, Ta AQ, Reddy ST, Durning SJ. Surveys of health professions trainees: prevalence, response rates, and predictive factors to guide researchers. Acad Med. 2017;92:222-8. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1097/ACM.0000000000001334

Phillips AW. Proper applications for surveys as a study methodology. West J Emerg Med. 2017;18:8-11. DOI: https://doi.org/10.5811/westjem.2016.11.32000

Asch DA, Jedrziewski MK, Christakis NA. Response rates to mail surveys published in medical journals. J Clin Epidemiol. 1997;50:1129-36. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/S0895-4356(97)00126-1

Kellerman SE, Herold J. Physician response to surveys. A review of the literature. Am J Prev Med. 2001;20:61-7. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/S0749-3797(00)00258-0

Taylor T, Scott A. Do physicians prefer to complete online or mail surveys? Findings from a national longitudinal survey. Eval Health Prof. 2019;42:41-70. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1177/0163278718807744

Jefferson L, Bloor K, Maynard A. Women in medicine: historical perspectives and recent trends. Br Med Bull. 2015;114:5-15. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1093/bmb/ldv007

Lo TC, Rogers SL, Hall AJ, Lim LL. Differences in practice of ophthalmology by gender in Australia. Clin Exp Ophthalmol. 2019;47:840-6. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1111/ceo.13523

Newman TH, Parry MG, Zakeri R, Pegna V, Nagle A, Bhatti F, et al. Gender diversity in UK surgical specialties: a national observational study. BMJ Open. 2022;12:e055516. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmjopen-2021-055516



How to Cite

Martins Leitão P, Oliveira S, Miranda A, Vivas C, Nascimento J, Leal S, Tavares Ferreira J, Magalhães A. Ophthalmology Census 2021: A Demographic Characterisation of Ophthalmologists in Portugal. Acta Med Port [Internet]. 2024 Mar. 13 [cited 2024 Jun. 24];37(6):419-28. Available from: https://actamedicaportuguesa.com/revista/index.php/amp/article/view/20321