The longer you spend in school, the more likely you are to develop myopia. That’s according to a new study put out by the UK’s University of Bristol.
In this fascinating study, researchers analyzed data from the UK Biobank specifically looking for correlations between time spent in school and the incidence of myopia. Interestingly, scientists discovered that the myopic refractive error increased by -0.27 diopters for every year spent in school.
This means that a student who only went through the UK’s educational system for the standard 12 years would be one diopter less than someone who graduated with a Bachelor’s degree.
This finding is extremely important considering the rapid increase of childhood myopia cases all around the world. So many children are being diagnosed with myopia today that health care experts have begun calling it the “myopia boom.”
Study authors note that children are more prone to develop myopia than adults because normal axial eye growth occurs during childhood and adolescence. The strain students put on their eyes during this critical time could explain why school time is linked to nearsightedness.
Researchers hope their research will encourage education leaders to design classrooms that are more eye-friendly. Preventing childhood myopia would improve public health and help eye hospitals save thousands in unnecessary medical expenses.
Not getting myopia addressed early in life could make children more prone to developing blinding eye diseases in their adulthood. Unaddressed nearsightedness has also been linked with a higher incidence of anxiety, depression, and poor academic performance.
A few of the key factors behind this increase in myopia cases include prolonged time staring at electronic screens, lack of sunlight, and nutrient-deficient diets. Ophthalmologists recommend parents take their children to an eye doctor ASAP to check for early myopia symptoms.
Although the “myopia boom” is affecting all industrialized nations, East Asian countries are the hardest hit. Over 80 percent of 20-year-olds in nations like Singapore, Korea, and Japan currently wear eyeglasses or contacts for myopia.
Doctor Denize Atan, who teaches in Bristol University’s ophthalmology department, was the main author on this study. A few other key researchers include Drs. Jez Guggenheim, Santiago Rodriguez, and George Davey Smith.
Anyone interested in this study should pick up a copy of the latest British Medical Journal. Study authors entitled this research, “Education and myopia: assessing the direction of causality by mendelian randomization.”