02 May Is Too Much Time Indoors Ruining Our Children’s Eyes and Causing a Nearsighted Epidemic?
Several different studies suggest that spending time outdoors decreases your chances for Myopia. Myopia is a disease often called “nearsightedness” where the eye grows too long, making distance vision blurry. Unfortunately, the percentage of individuals affected by the disease is growing. In the United States the percentage of individuals with myopia is up 65% since 1970.
Sure, nearsightedness can be corrected with laser vision correction, but wouldn’t it be better to prevent it in the first place? Myopia does have genetic components to it so that if parents are nearsighted, their children have a higher chance of myopia, but studies are showing that environmental factors also affect the development of the disease.
In one study published this year, Cui. et al. found that children 8-14 that accumulated more hours of daylight developed less myopia than children that had less daylight. They concluded that children should spend more time outside during daylight hours to decrease the incidence and severity of myopia.
In another study conducted in Taiwan, children from two different schools were compared. In the first school, children were forced to have outside recess while in the other school children could choose to stay indoors. The result was that the children at the school that spent more time outside developed less myopia. The researchers recommended intervention to increase the amount of time children spent outdoors throughout the school day to decrease the incidence of myopia.
In a final study, Danish investigators noticed that during the winter where there are only 8 hours of daylight, children’s eyes elongated (developed more myopia) at a faster rate than in the summer where as much as 18 hours of daylight are available.
The bottom line is that if we want to decrease the alarming growth of myopia, we need to help our children spend more time outside. Volumes could be written on the advantages and disadvantages of video games in dark rooms on children, but one thing is clear…If we want them to have clear vision, then they will need to spend more time outside, especially if myopia already runs in the family.