Skip to Content

What is the life expectancy of a red-green colorblind person?

Color blindness, also known as color vision deficiency, is the decreased ability to see color or differences in color. It affects a significant percentage of the population, with estimates ranging from 5% to 8% of men and 0.4% to 0.8% of women worldwide. The most common type of color blindness is red-green color blindness, where people have difficulty distinguishing between reds, greens, browns, and similar shades.

Overview of Red-Green Color Blindness

Red-green color blindness, also known as protan and deutan defects, is an X-linked recessive genetic condition. It is caused by a defect in the genes that produce the photopigments responsible for detecting red and green light.

There are three main types of red-green color blindness:

  • Protanopia – inability to see reds
  • Deuteranopia – inability to see greens
  • Protanomaly and deuteranomaly – decreased sensitivity to reds and greens

People with red-green color blindness have difficulty distinguishing between reds, greens, browns, oranges, yellows, and shades in between. This can make certain tasks more challenging, such as selecting ripe fruit, reading colored graphs, recognizing traffic lights, and more.

Prevalence of Red-Green Color Blindness

Studies estimate that red-green color blindness affects approximately:

Population Prevalence
Males 5-8%
Females 0.4-0.8%

The condition is much more common in men due to the X-linked inheritance pattern. Women have two X chromosomes, so a defect in one is typically compensated for by the other. Men only have one X chromosome, so a defect cannot be offset.

Genetic Cause

The most common cause of red-green color blindness is a genetic mutation affecting the OPN1MW or OPN1LW genes on the X chromosome. These genes provide instructions for making the red and green photopigments in the retinal cone cells of the eye.

There are over 100 identified genetic mutations that can alter the function of the red and green photopigments. The specific mutation determines the type and severity of color vision deficiency. For example:

  • Mutations to OPN1MW typically affect red perception, leading to protan defects.
  • Mutations to OPN1LW typically affect green perception, leading to deutan defects.

The mutated genes are passed from color blind mothers to their sons, or from fathers (even if not color blind themselves) to their daughters.

Other Causes

Although genetics are the most common cause, red-green color blindness can sometimes result from:

  • Damage to the retina from injury or disease
  • Side effects of certain medications
  • Complications of diabetes, multiple sclerosis, Alzheimer’s disease, glaucoma, and other illnesses
  • Aging and loss of color perception

These types of acquired color blindness tend to be less defined and may only cause subtle color vision problems.

Diagnosis of Red-Green Color Blindness

Red-green color blindness is typically diagnosed using screening tests such as:

  • Ishihara color plates – Plates with colored dots in patterns that are visible to normal vision but not to color blind individuals.
  • Farnsworth D15 test – Arrangement of movable color caps in chromatic order.
  • Anomaloscopy – Matching spectral lights using a viewing box.

More extensive testing can characterize the type and extent of color vision deficiencies. Genetic testing can also identify specific gene mutations causing the condition.

Effects on Daily Living

For most people, red-green color blindness only causes minor inconveniences and they adapt well. However, there are some activities that may present challenges, including:

  • Reading colored graphs and charts
  • Identifying colors in art, decor, or fashion
  • Distinguishing traffic lights, stop signs, colored warnings
  • Determining ripeness of fruits and vegetables
  • Identifying blood or chemicals in lab tests
  • Assembling colored electronics wires and components
  • Mixing paint colors appropriately

Some high acuity occupations such as pilot, electrician, and lab technician may be restricted for individuals with color blindness. However, most occupations pose no substantial difficulties.

Effects on Health and Survival

Red-green color blindness does not directly affect health or reduce life expectancy. However, there are some indirect considerations:

  • Inability to identify blood in injuries, stool, or other bodily fluids
  • Potential for hazards when wires or chemicals are color-coded for safety
  • Possible risks of misidentifying colored medication capsules or tablets
  • Delay in seeking help for medical issues if skin color changes go unnoticed

With proper precautions, these risks can be minimized. Overall, red-green color blindness alone does not appear to increase mortality or reduce lifespan.

Impact on Life Expectancy

There are no definitive statistics showing reduced life expectancy for red-green color blind individuals. Some key points:

  • No direct evidence that red-green color blindness increases risk of death or disease.
  • May be minor associated risks, but proper precautions can reduce hazards.
  • Color blind individuals adapt well and lead normal, healthy lives.
  • Studies have not found increased mortality or reduced lifespan.
  • Color blindness genes are not associated with other life-shortening genetic disorders.

Based on current evidence, red-green color blindness alone is unlikely to have a significant impact on life expectancy. A person with this condition can expect to live a normal lifespan, barring any unrelated health conditions.

Life Expectancy Statistics

There are no comprehensive statistics on life expectancy specifically for red-green color blind populations. However, some general population data suggests normal longevity:

Country Overall Life Expectancy
United States 78.8 years
Canada 82.3 years
United Kingdom 81.4 years

These averages match closely with global data on overall life expectancy. While statistics focused on red-green color blind individuals may show slight variances, significant reductions in lifespan are unlikely based on current knowledge.

Research on Mortality Risk

There are a few studies investigating mortality risk and color blindness:

  • A 2016 Danish study of over 2.5 million people found no increased risk of death among color blind individuals.
  • A 2002 French study also found no differences in mortality between color blind and normal vision groups.
  • Some research has looked at traffic accident risk, with mixed conclusions on whether color blindness is a factor.

Overall, most studies show that red-green color blindness does not independently predict earlier death or mortality. However, more large-scale research focused specifically on this population could provide added insight.

Role of Associated Conditions

While red-green color blindness itself does not affect longevity, in some cases it may co-occur with other vision disorders that could impact health. For example:

  • Cataracts – More common in color blind individuals, advanced cases can cause vision loss.
  • Glaucoma – Increased risk in some types of color blindness.
  • Macular degeneration – Possible greater susceptibility in color blind groups.

Proper eye care to detect and manage these types of conditions can help preserve vision and maintain quality of life for someone with color blindness.

Genetic Disorders Associated with Color Blindness

Certain genetic disorders that sometimes feature color blindness may affect lifespan. Examples include:

  • Kallmann syndrome – Color blindness along with hypogonadism and anosmia.
  • Hermansky-Pudlak syndrome – Albinism, platelet dysfunction, and color blindness.
  • Galactosemia – Inability to metabolize galactose sugar.

However, these disorders are exceptionally rare. Most cases of red-green color blindness occur in isolation without being tied to other life-shortening genetic conditions.

The Bottom Line

Based on current evidence, red-green color blindness alone does not appear to significantly impact longevity or reduce average life expectancy. While some small associated risks exist, most color blind individuals adapt well and lead normal, healthy lives. Barring unrelated medical conditions, their lifespan is expected to be typical for the overall population.

More extensive research focused specifically on color blind groups could provide added insight. But so far, studies have not conclusively shown increased mortality or reduced life expectancy resulting solely from red-green color vision deficiencies.


In summary, red-green color blindness is a common genetic condition that does not directly reduce longevity. While it may present some daily challenges and minor hazards, most color blind people adapt well and have normal lifespans. The available data indicates they can expect to live as long as the general population. With proper precautions and regular eye care, red-green color blindness alone should not significantly impact life expectancy.