As Our Vision Suffers a Drastic Decline, a Simple Solution

Severe myopia is on the rise, and spending more time outdoors is seen as a remedy
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 2, 2023 3:00 PM CDT
Our Vision Is Getting Worse. The Solution May Be Simple
   (Getty / ERphotographer)

"The world is going blind," reads the headline at Wired, and it's not some kind of metaphor. The story by Amit Katwala explains how myopia, or near-sightedness, is on the rise around the world—particularly in Asia. The more severe cases, called high myopia, can lead to blindness. The stats are jarring: About 90% of teens and young adults in China are myopic, up from 10% in the 1950s. Similarly in Taiwan, about 90% of high school students are myopic. Rates in the US and Europe are well under 50%, but they're increasing. Asia, it seems, is simply ahead of the curve. "It's estimated that by 2050, half the world's population will need glasses, contacts, or surgery to see across a room," writes Katwala. "High myopia is now the leading cause of blindness in Japan, China, and Taiwan."

So what's going on? Too much staring at smartphones, you might think. But that can't quite explain it, because the trend has been in place before their advent. Katwala's story, which draws on research from Australia, makes the case that more young people are getting myopia because they're spending too much time indoors (including in classrooms). The piece explains the science behind the premise, which involves sunlight stimulating the release of dopamine from the retina, and it finds that a remedy might be fairly simple—schools should make a point to get kids outside more often. It also seems that the earlier this practice starts, the better. "Technology and industrialization may have contributed to the myopia problem, but sometimes the best solutions are cheap and simple," writes Katwala. "Just go outside, and see." Read the full story. (Or check out other longforms.)

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