Is Children’s Eyesight Getting Worse?

Nearsightedness – in which items at a distance appear blurry to the affected person – is something that is typically associated with middle aged and older adults. Unfortunately, evidence suggests that this issue is becoming more prevalent among children.

A Bad Look

One recent study on this issue comes courtesy of Canada’s Waterloo University, along with the CNIB Foundation, a non-profit organization dedicated to help those living with blindness. For this project, the study authors analyzed the eye health of children from the Waterloo Region of Ontario and the Waterloo Catholic District School Boards.

The results weren’t a pretty sight; more than one in six children (17.5 percent) were found to be near-sighted. Furthermore, this condition appears to be developing in younger and younger children. Dr. Mike Yang, the study’s lead investigator and a clinical scientist with the Centre for Ocular Research & Education, noted that “historically, myopia started at age 12 or 13, but now it is showing up more often in kids six or seven years old. Our eyesight as a population is deteriorating and at a much younger age.”

Another Reason to Go Outside?

So what’s behind this trend in childhood nearsightedness? The researchers found that this condition appears to be largely hereditary; a child’s risk of myopia increased by more than 100 percent if one of their parents was also nearsighted.

On a positive note, the researchers did find that children who spent more time outside were at much less risk of myopia. In fact, the study noted that one additional hour outside per week was enough to see results.

Keith Gordon, the Vice-President of Research at CNIB, stressed the need for parents to be conscientious about their children’s eye health. “We expect to find the same results in children across the country. It’s important for children between the ages of six and 19 to get an eye exam every year, as recommended by the Canadian Association of Optometrists,” stated Gordon in University of Waterloo press release. “However, even with annual check-ups, parents need to ensure that their children spend less time in front of screens and more time outside, even if it’s just one extra hour a week.”

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