Half the world will be nearsighted by 2050

CC BY 2.0 Nicki Varkevisser/flickr

A cautionary tale! Get outside; send your kids out to play. Myopia rates are skyrocketing, spending too much time inside is to blame.

Lat year we wrote about the startling conclusion that nearsightedness has more than doubled in 50 years; now new research is backing up the previous work with some startling statistics. We really are losing our vision.

Researchers from Brien Holden Vision Institute, University of New South Wales Australia and Singapore Eye Research Institute conclude that half of the world – nearly 5 billion people – will be myopic by 2050. That's seven times more people with myopia than in 2000. And of those 5 billion, up to 1 billion of them will be at a significantly increased risk of blindness.

This quick spike in myopia is attributed to environmental factors – not genetics – "principally lifestyle changes resulting from a combination of decreased time outdoors and increased near work activities, among other factors," say the authors of the study which is published in the journal Ophthalmology.

The researchers are advising parents to have children's eyes checked regularly, improve time outdoors and moderate time on near-based activities including electronic devices.

The earlier research also concurred with the importance of spending time outside. In fact, they concluded that it's not the reading and computers and smartphones that are to blame, so much, but the very act of spending too much time inside. Basically, it boils down to exposure to light. Regardless of what kids are doing – whether sports, or playing, and even those who continue to do “close work” (like reading) outside – what seems to be key is the eye's exposure to bright light. You can read more about that research here: Why has nearsightedness more than doubled in 50 years?

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