Is Screen Time Linked to Myopia?
With the rise of digital devices associated with quarantine and the ongoing pandemic, more evidence emerges as to how it affects our health. One of the most concerning issues revolves around the increased prevalence of myopia in the younger generation, since half of the global population is expected to have myopia, or nearsightedness, by 2050. Research was recently published on this topic, pointing to excessive screen exposure as a risk factor to myopia in children and young adults aged from 3 months to 33 years old.
Eye health experts and researchers from Singapore, Australia, China and the UK reviewed over 3,000 articles with primary data for their study, and found that the myopia epidemic is likely to be driven by two major factors in developing societies: the first being insufficient time spent outdoors and the second being more time engaged in near-vision activities. As the generation most affected by urbanisation, children have begun to use devices for long uninterrupted periods at close viewing distances. Social media and online entertainment, along with the additional time spent on computers due to remote learning, are the reasons behind why the youth of today have an average of 8 hours of screen time each day.
So how substantial is the risk? After compiling all the data of the studies, the authors of the article stated that high levels of screen time on phones were associated with about a 30% higher risk of myopia, and when combined with high levels of computer usage, the risk increased to around 80%. This, however, is not entirely accurate or representative of the actual impact, as most of the information came from Asian populations and was self-reported.
Therefore, despite the association between screen time and myopia, the information we currently have is insufficient and not concrete. As technological innovation only continues to increase and more people use their digital devices for extended periods of time, it is clear that there is an urgent need for more research to be done in order to further understand the impacts of devices on our eyes.