The More Time You Spend Studying, The More Nearsighted You Become

Desiree Burns
June 9, 2018

Longer hours of studying causes myopia or short-sightedness, a new study finds.

Their study suggests that for each extra year spent in education, there was an expansion in myopic refractive error of -0.27 dioptres/year. "Policymakers should be aware that the educational practices used to teach children and to promote personal and economic health may have the unintended outcome of causing increasing levels of myopia and later visual disability as a result".

They analyzed 44 genetic variants associated with myopia and 69 genetic variants associated with years of schooling for more than 67,700 people aged 40 to 69 years.

Using a statistical method called "mendelian randomization", the researchers looked for genetic variants related to nearsightedness and genetic predisposition to higher educational attainment.

Many studies have reported strong links between education and myopia, but it is not clear whether increasing exposure to education causes myopia, myopic children are more studious, or socioeconomic position leads to myopia and higher levels of education. The researchers found "strong evidence" that education was one of the drivers behind higher myopia rates.

To put this into context, a university graduate from the United Kingdom with 17 years of education would, on average, be more myopic than someone who left school at 16 (with 12 years of education). This difference in myopia severity is enough to blur vision for driving below legal standards. This type of analysis gives more reliable results, therefore if an association is found it is more likely to suggest a direct relationship.

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Exactly how increasing levels of education cause myopia can not be known from MR analyses, although there are possible clues from recognised environmental risk factors.

The research team suggest that less time spent outdoors is a possible link between education and myopia, and they recommend children spend more time outside. One of the potential factors may be light exposure, according to Atan, adding that natural light might have a protective effect according to clues from previous research.

A new research based on genetic data reveals that spending more time studying in school can indeed have a negative effect on people's eyesight. The participants who contribute to this database are typically healthier, highly educated, and report fewer health problems compared to the rest of the population. But there was insufficient evidence that this could explain the findings.

Consultants pointed to the expertise in East Asia, the place education means early intense instructional pressures and little time for play open air.

"Given the advantages of time spent outdoors on mental health and the protection it provides against obesity and chronic diseases, we might all benefit from spending more time outside".

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