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Outdoor activity reduces the prevalence of myopia in children

Summary


Spending time outdoors helps prevent myopia in 12-year-olds

In recent decades, myopia or nearsightedness has become increasingly common in young children. While the cause(s) of myopia remain unknown, environmental factors, such as reading that requires children to focus at a close distance, are thought to play an important role. Using data from the Sydney, Australia Myopia study, Rose and colleagues investigate the relationship between near work, midworking distance, and outdoor activities with the prevalence of myopia in 6- and 12-year-old children. Between 2003 and 2005, 1,765 6-year-olds and 2,367 12-year-olds received a comprehensive eye exam and completed questionnaires about their activities during weekdays and weekends (parents completed the questionnaires for the 6-year-old children). The authors grouped children’s activities into near work (e.g., drawing and reading), midworking distance (e.g., watching television and using the computer), and outdoor activities (e.g., bicycle riding and outdoor sport). After adjusting for a number of potentially confounding factors (e.g., parental myopia and ethnicity), Rose and colleagues found that while there was no association between the prevalence of myopia and activity among 6-year-olds, a higher level of total time spent outdoors was associated with a lower prevalence of myopia among 12-year-olds. The authors found that 12-year-olds with the highest levels of near work activity and lowest levels of outdoor activity were two to three times more likely than their peers to develop myopia, whereas 12-year-olds with the lowest levels of near work activity and highest levels of outdoor activity were less likely than their peers to develop myopia. The authors also found that participation in sports did not seem to be a significant factor in explaining this protective effect. Rose and colleagues suggest that light intensity may be an important factor in explaining the impact of outdoor activity on the development of myopia and that additional research is needed to help understand this relationship.

Citation

Rose, K. A., Morgan, I. G., Ip, J., Kifley, A., Huynh, S., Smith, W., Mitchell, P., (2008). Outdoor activity reduces the prevalence of myopia in children. Ophthalmology, 115(8), 1279-1285.

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