A fascinating UK study suggests various environmental risk factors could play a major role in the early development of myopia. In particular, researchers found that children who used computers for a long time or who were born in summer had an increased risk of developing myopia.
For this study, researchers at King’s College, London closely followed almost 2,000 twins born in the 1990s in the UK. The study participants were involved in the Twins Early Development Study.
At key intervals between the child’s 2nd and 16th birthday, scientists collected various data points on environmental factors influencing the participant’s life and their visual health. Study authors also sent surveys to the study participants’ teachers and parents to fill out at different intervals.
In total, about 25 percent of study participants were diagnosed with myopia during the course of this study. Most of these myopic children were prescribed some sort of eyewear for their condition at the age of 11.
When they reviewed the data, scientists noticed two environmental factors that were noticeably correlated to a higher than average risk of myopia. First, students who spent more time playing games on electronic screens had a greater risk of becoming myopic.
Interestingly, study authors believe the reason prolonged computer use adversely affects eye health has less to do with blue light exposure and more to do with reduced time outdoors. Children who spend more time looking at computers often don’t get enough natural sunlight, which is extremely beneficial for eye health.
Perhaps the most interesting observation in this study, however, was that children born in the summertime had a higher risk of myopia than those born at other times. Scientists believe this is the case because students born in the summer go to school at a younger age than their pupils. The earlier exposure to up-close work seems to adversely affect students’ eyes.
Professors also highlighted that children born into wealthier families with higher educational attainments were slightly more likely to develop myopia. This correlation, however, wasn’t as strong as the other two factors.
While these findings are valuable, optometrists around the world note that electronic screens are far more pervasive today than they were in the 1990s. Doctors recommend conducting further studies to better understand how the 21st century environment adversely affects children’s visual development.
Dr. Christopher J. Hammond, who teaches ophthalmology at King’s College, was the lead researcher on this study. A few other key authors on this study include Drs. Katie M. William, Eva Kraphol, and Pirro G. Hysi.
Anyone interested in this research should check out the latest edition of Ophthalmology. This study was entitled, “Early life factors for myopia in the British Twins Early Development Study.”