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90% of East Asian School Children Are Nearsighted

90% of East Asian School Children Are Nearsighted

90 percent of school children in major cities in East Asia are now nearsighted, with researchers suggesting that long hours spent inside studying and less time — or no time — allotted to being in outside light are the reason. That is, heightened educational pressures and lifestyle changes such as staying indoors (perhaps, the better also to use computers and electronic devices instead of throwing and catching a ball?) are taking a toll on a whole generation of children.

Myopia occurs in those who eyesight is blurred beyond 6.6 feet; it is often caused by an elongation of the eyeball when people are young. Professor Ian Morgan of the Australian National University, the lead author of The Lancet study, tells the BBC that 20 to 30 percent on average of a population have myopia and this is indeed the average level of the condition in the U.K.

But up to 90 percent of young adults in East Asia are now nearsighted and, as they age, a “major health problem” lies ahead for them.†Moreover, 10 to 20 percent of East Asian school children have high myopia, which can lead to vision loss, visual impairment and even blindness.

Morgan argues that the intense emphasis on academics among children in East Asia leads to them staying indoors and poring over books and text, thereby preventing them from going out of doors and getting exposure to daylight. Two to three hours of natural light can counterbalance all that studying but, as children in East Asia nap in the midpoint of the day, they lose out on exposure to that prime light.

Previously, scientists had thought there was a strong genetic component among people from China, Japan, Korea and other countries to develop myopia. But myopia is on the rise in Singapore where “large numbers of people” are from Chinese, Malay and Indian backgrounds, suggesting that, while genetics cannot be completely ruled out, environmental factors (such as a cultural imperative to emphasize intensive studying) play a significant part.

The study‘s findings are a possible indictment of, indeed, the huge regard placed on school children in East Asia to study and forego all else, as required by their success-hungry parents and “tiger mothers.” Playing, and just getting outside where the light is not electric, but natural, and where you have to set your eyes on something either than letters on a page, are not indulgences or wastes of children’s time, but essential to help them refocus and “recharge.”

Going outside provides valuable time out in our increasingly sedentary 21st-century lifestyle and, thus, huge benefits to health, today and tomorrow.

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8 comments

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1:46PM PST on Dec 29, 2012

http://ingeniousplanet.com/eyeexercise.html

I emailed China's government offering my ebook for free
to help millions of kids.

11:44AM PDT on Aug 17, 2012

How thoroughly have they looked into genetics? I know most asians I know HERE are also myopic.... and they go out with the rest of us.

9:03PM PDT on May 5, 2012

Thanks for the article.

8:13AM PDT on May 5, 2012

cont'd from below part 3: [last]

And everyone knows, if one doesn't fare well in school, neglect studies, knows their chances at a better life from being allowed to get into higher education of College/University whether at home or abroad, means the least opportunities for success with respect to better jobs, better pay... better life, etc. And they all have to compete for LIMITED openings in schools whether it is at home, or abroad.

And even if one is an A+ student from a 'tough academic school' doesn't mean one's chances are assured, because the competition of sheer numbers of so many near the same high levels, mean many capable students will actually be rejected from entry to College/Universities, at least at home. This leaves openings abroad, the last resort.

8:11AM PDT on May 5, 2012

cont'd from below (part 2):

Thus, this apparent 'new' observation of increased myopia may not be anything but the fact that those observed in China now, or any East Asian nation, for economic reasons opt for the more affordable and sensible eye-glasses which have the added UV protection for the eyes and a bit from inclement weather (rain, snow, etc.) or wind (and anything that goes along with it), rather than contact lenses that have less protection, from either UV or dust, smoke, or other airborne particulates, and inclement weather. That is, the observation is more of a shift from contact lens options to eye-glasses, or as they get older, staying with eye-glasses rather than ever adopt contact lenses altogether. Economic and eye-health still determine a preference for eye-glasses over contact lenses.

I don't doubt that many East Asians are myopic that are due to being a 'home body' and 'studious', etc. Hence the classic stereotype that all East Asians are 'nerds' or 'geeks'; whether that is true for all East Asians or not. And those who are studious and myopic, are the only ones who could have good enough grades to qualify as candidates to being accepted as students for College/Universities abroad, such as those here out in the 'West' (USA/Canada/Australia/UK/Europe/etc) or elsewhere.

And everyone knows, if one doesn't fare well in school, neglect studies, knows their chances at a better life from being allowed to get into higher education of College/University

8:04AM PDT on May 5, 2012

That observation is truly bizarre, and late by numerous decades, if not a Century.

In my case, my myopia, came unusually late, especially for an East Asian, yet when younger and not so myopic, it was already stereotype of East Asian at least from the mid-20th Century that they all were mostly myopic except for the few who would be the minority with normal eye-sight. Being born Canadian, and having lived also abroad in the USA, this stereotype persisted. All/any of my East Asian schoolmates I ever knew were all myopic, whether they were born here or immigrated from abroad. And I always thought it a characteristic of Chinese and Japanese, especially the more southern Chinese rather than the more northern ones.

This stereotype was also reflected often in fiction of the media and Hollywood; so I figured what existed around me of East Asian being mostly myopic for real matched the fiction of TV/Movies.
Only more recently have East Asians been portrayed less myopic, but then, that's only because vast majority of them now wear contact lenses to address their myopia; so essentially that myopia has simply been masked by prescription contact glasses harder to detect than the more obvious external visibility of prescription eye-glasses instead.

Thus, this apparent 'new' observation of increased myopia may not be anything but the fact that those observed in China now, or any East Asian nation, for economic reasons opt for the more affordable and sensible eye-glasses which have

5:12AM PDT on May 5, 2012

I'm currently teaching in China and what the article says rings true considering the numbers of students I have who wear glasses. I'm also keenly aware of the hours they spend in classes each day, and the hours they spend after class studying each night. This is esp. true when they are craming for tests as they are now...tests that will determine their futures.

5:07AM PDT on May 5, 2012

I'm currently teaching in China and what the article says rings true when I consider the numbers of my students who wear glasses. I'm also keenly aware of the hours they spend in class each day, and the hours more they spend in the evening studying. This is esp. true when they cram for tests as they are now...tests they must do well in because their future depends on it.

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Kristina Chew Kristina Chew teaches ancient Greek, Latin and Classics at Saint Peter's University in New Jersey.... more
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