Time Spent Outside In Youth Can Affect Nearsightedness

Photo credit: bigstock.com

Photo credit: bigstock.com

Nearsightedness has been a growing problem for years for millions of people, but for a long time, no one was quite sure why. Until recently, many people considered bad vision something you were simply born with. Research appeared to indicate that the ever-increasing amount of time people spent focusing on objects in close proximity to their eyes was causing nearsightedness. Activities such a smartphone use, computer use, and even reading were deemed contributing factors to vision decline. However, new findings have shown that it may actually be the amount of time you spend indoors during your formative years that determines whether or not you’ll be needing glasses or contact lenses later in life.

 

The relationship between sun exposure and visual acuity

The rates of myopia, or nearsightedness, have skyrocketed all over the world over the last few decades, and no one is quite sure why. In the 1970s, approximately 25 percent of people in the United States were nearsighted; today it is as high as 42 percent. In East Asia, the problem is even more pronounced, with countries such as Japan, South Korea, and Singapore having some of the highest levels of myopia in the world. What’s going on? What has changed over the past few decades?

There is a great deal of evidence that myopia is an inherited trait. If this is the case, why is it that people with nearsightedness were not simply weeded out of the gene pool over time?

The truth is that while genetics is definitely a factor, environment and lifestyle can play a huge role in determining whether or not vision develops properly. It turns out that over the past few years, many people living in developed countries have developed a phobia of the sun. Consider how the average person lives today: waking up in a heated and air conditioned home, driving to and from work (which is also climate controlled), going shopping, etc. … all of these activities take place inside. The only sun exposure such a person might get is in the few seconds they’re walking from their car to their destination. Compare this to our ancestors: Even as recently as a few generations ago, people spent much more time outside.

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