Spending one additional hour per week outdoors significantly lowers the odds of nearsightedness
Dr Jeff Goodhew, Optometrist, Abbey Eye Care
New research from the University of Waterloo’s School of Optometry and Vision Science and CNIB found nearsightedness in children increases drastically from Grade 1 to Grade 8, with almost a third of the cases going undiagnosed and uncorrected.
The landmark study, entitled Myopia Prevelence in Canadian School Children, found nearsightedness—also known as myopia—increases from six per cent to 28.9 per cent between the ages of 6 and 13. Children from the Waterloo Region District School Board and Waterloo Catholic District School Board participated in the landmark study, with 17.5 per cent of them being nearsighted.
“Historically, myopia started at age 12 or 13, but now it is showing up more often in kids six or seven years old,” said Dr. Mike Yang, lead investigator and clinical scientist with the Centre for Contact Lens Research (CCLR) at Waterloo. “Our eyesight as a population is deteriorating and at a much younger age.”
Genetics plays a role but does not tell the entire story. According to the report out of Waterloo, children of a parent with myopia have more than double the risk of developing it themselves. One study out of China noted that 85% of university aged students are nearsighted but when they checked their grandparents, only 5% were nearsighted. So genetics plays a role but the environment must be a factor as well.
The Waterloo study also found that spending one additional hour outside significantly lowered the odds of children becoming nearsighted by 15%. It’s important for school-aged children to get an eye exam every year, as recommended by the Canadian Association of Optometrists. 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.