Children risk short-sightedness unless they play outside for two hours a day say experts3 min read

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Too much reading makes children short-sighted, say experts who recommend kids get two hours of outside play time every day

  • New epidemic of myopia in youngsters has been linked to amount of ‘nearwork’ 
  • Scientists predict a rise in numbers of people who become blind later in life 
  • British Contact Lens Association ex-president advised two hours outside a day  

Children are risking short-sightedness unless they spend two hours a day outside and ditch screens and homework books, say experts. 

A new epidemic of myopia in youngsters has been directly linked to the amount of time they spend doing ‘nearwork’. 

Scientists have also predicted a rise in the numbers of people who will become blind in later life because people who develop short-sightedness at a young age have a higher risk of eye problems when they get older. 

Some specialists believe the condition should be renamed ‘school myopia’ because the increase in diagnoses is so steep. 

About 20 per cent of under-16s in the UK are short-sighted, compared with just 7.2 per cent in the 1960s.

Dr Clare Quigley, an opthalmologist at Galway University Hospital, conducted a study researching the lifestyles and health of 8,568 nine-year-olds which found a strong connection between the condition and a sedentary lifestyle.

She told the Sunday Times: ‘The factors that consistently appear most important in development of myopia are education and time spent indoors … more education is associated with greater myopia.’ 

Until now myopia has been seen mainly as a genetic condition but new research is now able to not only confirm, but quantify, how ‘nearwork’ can damage children’s vision. 

A research paper from the International Myopia Institute found that the odds of getting myopia increased by 2 per cent for every additional ‘diopter-hour’ of nearwork. 

A diopter hour combines the length of visual activities with viewing distance. 

Myopia is caused when the eyeball grows too long and light is refracted incorrectly so images are focused in front of the retina instead of on the retina and appear blurry. 

The condition is far more common in westernised societies when compared with those who live outdoor lifestyles. 

Experts predict roughly 50 per cent of people will have myopia by 2050, an 20 per cent increase to the number who are now.

In South Korea, Taiwan, Singapore, China and Japan the rates of people who have myopia are far higher at 80-95 per cent.

In order to curb the increase, some people have suggested that opticians give out lifestyle prescriptions as well as medical ones by telling people to send children outside.  

A former president of the British Contact Lens Association, Chris Kerr, told the Sunday Times: ‘In general, time outdoors – at least two hours a day – is good advice.’

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