The prolonged closures over the past year and a half, which have forced many to spend more time in homes, have also affected the quality of our children’s vision.
This emerges from a new study that found that children are almost twice as likely to develop myopia as a result of increased exposure to screens and less time outdoors during the epidemic.
The study, recently published in the British Journal of Ophthalmology by researchers from the Chinese University, sought to examine the prevalence of myopia in 1,793 children aged 6-8 from Hong Kong. About 700 children were recruited in the five years before the epidemic, while the rest were recruited for research at the beginning of the epidemic. Aside from vision tests, the children were also asked about the amount of time they spent outside and in front of the screens.
In this context, the researchers found an alarming increase in the number of children with myopia, with the chance of a 6-year-old child developing myopia rising from 17% before the epidemic to 28%. For children aged 7, the chance increased from 16% to 27%, and among children aged 8, the chance of developing myopia increased from 15% to 26%.
These changes in children’s vision were consistent with findings that revealed a sharp increase in screen time and a decrease in outdoor recreation time during the epidemic, with overall children increasing their screen time from 2.5 hours per day to seven hours, while daily outdoor time was reduced from 75 minutes to approx. 24 minutes a day.
According to the researchers, although this is a local study, “the data may serve as a warning light for ophthalmologists, as well as policymakers, educators and parents, and warn that collective efforts are needed to prevent myopia in children as a result of the corona epidemic.” “.
Meanwhile, from a study conducted in Sydney in 2013, there is evidence that spending time outdoors during the day has a protective effect against the development of myopia in children, which is consistent with the findings of this study.