*The following is excerpted from an online article posted on StudyFinds.
As most children start their summer vacations, many parents are busy booking their back-to-school doctor’s checkups. Unfortunately, the last year has been anything but ordinary when it comes to health. Even if youngsters avoided COVID-19 while staying in quarantine and remote learning, a recent study reveals bad news for those upcoming visits to the eye doctor. Researchers say the combination of home confinement and too much time looking at digital screens appears to be severely impacting kids’ vision.
The international team from the United States and China finds the rates of myopia, or near-sightedness, among young children is three times higher during the pandemic than in the previous five years. Researchers examined over 123,000 children between six and 13 years old during the global health emergency. Results reveal a “substantial” uptick in near-sighted cases among children between six and eight years old.
“Due to COVID-19 in 2020, the school-aged children were confined to their homes from January to May, and online courses were offered. For the screened population, their daily online course hours for grades 1 and 2 is 1 hour and the time for grades 3 to 6 is 2.5 hours. Children’s indoor activities and screen time therefore increased and their outdoor activities were decreased, often to none,” researchers write.
The results uncovered a stunning spike in near-sightedness among the youngest children in the study. From 2015 through 2019, researchers only diagnosed 5.7 percent of six-year-olds with myopia by 2019. The 2020 findings show 21.5 percent of six-year-olds are now myopic. Moreover, 26.2 percent of seven-year-olds and 37.2 percent of eight-year-olds also displayed poorer vision.
The study was published in the journal JAMA Ophthalmology.