Time Outdoors as a Child Protects Against Developing Shortsightedness

Posted on March 19th, 2015

Around half of young adults in the US and Europe are affected with Myopia – shortsightedness ranging from mild to severe. This is double the prevalence of the condition 50 years ago.  In East Asia the rates are much higher with up to 90% of teenagers and young adults suffering from myopia.

The growing prevalance of myopia has prompted many studies over the last two decades. The body of evidence starts to point towards the amount of time children spend outdoors.  

Because the eye continues to grow as children develop, the preteen and teenage years are significant ones in terms of lifetime eye health. Trials at schools in China and Taiwan focusing on sending kids outdoors to play for 40 to 80 minutes per day saw a direct reduction in the rates of shortsightness years later.

The path of the studies is quite interesting to follow. We’d encourage you to read this rather excellent article from Nature.com for an indepth look at the outcomes and conclusions

While the connection is strong between positive eye health and outdoor play the mechanism causing it is still being theorised and tested…

  • > Is it exposure to light?
  • > Does it have to do with greater viewing distances?
  • > Is the nature of the activity an important factor.

… that remains to be answered. What is clear is that time spent in outdoor spaces has clear benefits that are hard to replicate otherwise.

Broadly speaking the studies outlined concluded that the time spent in ‘close work’ such as reading books was a much less important factor than the amount of time spent playing and relaxing outdoors.  So rather than limiting reading time the solution for better eye health would be to set daily “targets” for outdoor recreation.

Not always as easy said as done but today is a great day to ask the question: how can we get outdoors more?

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