If current trends continue, half the world’s population (almost 5 billion) will be short-sighted within the next 33 years, with about 1 billion expected to have a significantly increased risk of blindness, a new study reports.
The number of people with vision loss from high myopia is expected to increase seven-fold from 2000 to 2050, with myopia to become a leading cause of permanent blindness worldwide. (Myopia is the refractive condition of the eyes, where a person is unable to see distance objects clearly, until they walk closely to it)
The study, by researchers at the Brien Holden Vision Institute at UNSW and the Singapore Eye Research Institute, is published in the journal of Ophthalmology.
They looked at the rise in myopia cases over the past few decades and came up with predictions for the future.
Looking at data from 145 studies covering 2.1 million participants, they found that in 2000, some 1,406 million people were diagnosed with myopia (22.9 percent of the world population) and 163 million people had high myopia, which comes with an increased risk of blindness and cataracts.
According to the researchers, ‘’we predict by 2050 there will be 4,758 million people with myopia (49.8 percent of the world population) and 938 million people with high myopia,”
Although scientists still can’t agree on what’s causing it. Many believe environmental factors, mainly lifestyle and behavioural changes resulting from a combination of decreased time outdoors and increased near work activities, among other factors”. We are spending way more time indoors than any other period in human history, and very few of us could live without some serious daily screen time, either for work, school, or pleasure.
“Based on a handful of large epidemiological studies on myopia, spending time outdoors – especially in early childhood – reduces the onset of myopia,” Sarah Zhang reports for Wired.
“Various interventions have been researched but the one that has gotten the greatest traction is that if children spend 2 hours or more a day outdoors, that is protective,” study co-author Kovin Naidoo told The Huffington Post.
“Some argue it’s about looking at further distances, and there’s some evidence that it’s because of a chemical release in the retina. More results are coming in around the globe all the time but, the reality is there is acceptance on the fact that spending 2 hours or more outside is protective,” he said. “You could spend a long time reading from computers and screens, but also spend 2 hours outdoors and it’s still protective.”
“We also need to ensure our children receive a regular eye examination from an optometrist or ophthalmologist, preferably each year, so that preventative strategies can be employed if they are at risk,” says co-author Professor Kovin Naidoo, CEO of the Brien Holden Vision Institute.