Epidemic myopia levels among East Asian youth

Screen time—and being cooped up inside, without natural light—may be to blame

The eyes don’t have it

Cheng Gong/ChinaFotoPress/CP

A staggering 90 per cent of East Asian youth may be shortsighted, according to new research published in the medical journal The Lancet. Epidemic levels of myopia have been recorded in China, Taiwan, Japan, Singapore, Hong Kong and South Korea, according to study author Ian Morgan, of Australia’s National University. The rate of myopia in Britain was 30 to 40 per cent and in Africa, only two to three per cent.

Researchers once believed myopia was genetic, but recent studies link it to reading and other eye-straining activities. PlayStation, Xbox and Facebook are not exclusively to blame, but the link to increased screen time is clear: being cooped up inside compounds the problem, since outdoor light helps release retinal dopamine, which may prevent myopia. “Children who have spent more time outside are much less at risk,” says Morgan.

Parents, it seems, may know best when they advise children to go outside and play. It also does their eyes a world of good.