All work and no play makes you short sighted.
Researchers from the University of Bristol have found that spending more time in education is linked to higher levels of myopia (short sightedness).
Findings suggest that a UK university graduate with 17 years in education would, on average, be one dioptre more myopic than someone who left school at 16 with 12 years of education, researchers explained.
Consultant senior lecturer in ophthalmology at the University of Bristol, Dr Denize Atan, said: “Our study provides strong evidence that length of time spent in education is a causal risk factor for myopia.”
What causes this problem?
Annegret Dahlmann-Noor, consultant ophthalmologist at Moorfields Eye Hospital in London says lack of natural light seems to be the key issue.
"The main factor seems to be a lack of exposure to direct sunlight, because children who study a lot and who use computers or smartphones or tablet computers a lot have less opportunity to run around outside and are less exposed to sunshine and because of that seem to be at more risk of developing short-sightedness."
Why does this matter?
At this rate half of the world population will be short sighted by 2050. Being more short sighted may not seem like a big deal when it can be easily corrected by wearing glasses or contact lenses but being myopic increases the risk of numerous eye conditions, increasing the likelihood of sight loss and burdening the health service. Retinal detachments, glaucoma and cataracts are all more prevalent with myopia.
What can be done?
There is a large body of research that point to the protective effects of spending more time outdoors.
Chris Hammond, professor of ophthalmology at King's College London and consultant ophthalmic surgeon at St Thomas' Hospital explains "In a perfect world, probably on average across the week and the weekend, two hours a day outdoors is protective of becoming short-sighted in children."
He says myopia research done in Sydney, Australia showed that only 3% of Chinese-heritage children living in Sydney - who spent two hours a day outdoors - were short-sighted by the age of six, compared to nearly 30% of six-year-olds in Singapore.
"So again, suggestive that the outdoor lifestyle is good for our eyes."
What is our advice?
The best thing to do, is to get children playing outside as much as possible. Feeding ducks, riding bikes and climbing trees may just stop your child suffering sight problems later in life.
Because myopia is associated with axial growth of the eyeball, it can come on fairly quickly especially in the teenage years so if your child mentions poorer distance vision at any time (even if they have been tested recently) book an eye examination and if we find myopia it can carefully be monitored and spectacles prescribed to help.