The Myopia Epidemic
Myopia (nearsightedness) is rapidly rising in East Asia, Europe and the United States, especially among younger people. Sixty years ago, 10–20% of the Chinese population was nearsighted. Today, up to 90% of teenagers and young adults have myopia. Other parts of the world, such as the United States and Germany have also seen dramatic increases. In the early 1970s, about 25 percent of 12- to 54-year-old Americans were myopic. By the 2000s, more than 41 percent had the condition.
For many years, the scientific consensus held that myopia was largely due to genetics, but with rates increasing so rapidly, scientists have been forced to explore other potential causes. One theory is the increasing usage of smartphones. Is staring at small screens affecting our vision? Why myopia rates have soared isn’t entirely clear, but one factor that keeps cropping up in research is how much less time children are spending outside due to screen usage and increased academic pressure. The longer kids are outside, the less likely they are to become nearsighted, according to more than a dozen studies in various countries worldwide.
Recently, I wrote an article that was published in the Huffington Post called ‘Our Smartphone Obsession May Be Hurting Our Eyes.’ This article looks at the astronomical increase of smart phone usage worldwide and explores how this focus on technology could potentially be affecting our world’s vision.
A fascinating study of note, highlighted on the research section of our website, explores the connection between children spending time outdoors and its impact on myopia. This study looks at intervention techniques, as well as prevention. From what we understand from the research community, increasing a child’s time outdoors is being touted as the most common and consistent answer to slowing the progression of myopia. In fact, today science is recommending 14 hours of outdoor play each week for children around the world.
For more available research on this topic, visit the research section of our website and search by keyword myopia. Today we have more than forty of the leading studies related to myopia available right here. While we don’t have all the answers, we all agree that we are witnessing a myopia epidemic with some very serious implications for today and tomorrow. As a community, it is our responsibility to keep learning and striving for these answers, and together to keep Giving Vision a Voice!