A newly published study reveals that children who attend after-school sessions have a greater chance of developing near-sightedness (aka myopia). Researchers hope these findings will help public health officials better address the global “myopia boom.”
This observational study examined the eye health of about 2,000 Taiwanese students from 2009 to 2013. All of these children were between seven and 12-years-old at the beginning of this study.
At the start of the study, almost 27 percent of the students had some degree of myopia. By the end of the investigation, however, 28 percent of the children who initially didn’t have myopia developed the eye disorder.
Investigators soon found a correlation between students who attended evening schools (often called “cram schools”) and a higher than average risk of developing myopia. According to the data, students who spent at least two hours in cram schools every day had a 30 percent higher risk of becoming myopic.
Study authors argue this correlation between myopia and cram schools is due to two reasons. First, staring at computer screens for extended periods of time puts great strain on a child’s eyes. Second, these children spend less time outdoors, which means they aren’t getting vital eye nutrients like vitamin D from the sun.
To help reduce the incidence of childhood myopia, researchers suggest educators at cram schools practice the 20-20-20 rule. This rule advises people to look 20 feet away from a computer screen every 20 minutes for at least 20 seconds. Following the 20-20-20 rule regularly has been shown to dramatically improve symptoms related to digital eye strain.
More children than ever before are being diagnosed with near-sightedness. While this “myopia boom” is affecting almost every nation on earth, it’s particularly prevalent in East Asia. At least 80 percent of young adults in nations like Taiwan now wear glasses for near-sightedness.
Eye experts believe this rise in childhood myopia cases is due to many factors, including increased time on electronic devices, less time outside, and nutrient-deficient diets. Some health leaders have argued that Asian students have higher rates of myopia because they spend far less time outdoors than students in other countries.
Indeed, another study in southern Taiwan examined the differences between a school that had 80-minute outdoor recess sessions and another school that kept children inside all day. The school who went children outside for the full 80 minutes had 10 percent fewer myopia cases than the school that didn’t have recess.
Dr. Yung Liao, who teaches at the National Taiwan Normal University, and Dr. Li-Jung Chen, who works at University College London, were the lead authors on this cram school study. A few other prominent researchers include Drs. Po-Wen Ku, Yun-Ju Lai, and Hsiao-Yun Hu.
People who want to learn more about this study should check out the latest edition of American Academy of Ophthalmology. Scientists entitled their research, “The Associations between Near Visual Activity and Incident Myopia in Children.”