Children Who Spend More Time Outdoors May Be Less Likely To Become Nearsighted

Spending two to three hours a day outdoors can markedly lower a child’s risk of developing myopia or nearsightedness, according to a paper appearing in the January issue of Optometry and Vision Science. The journal is published by Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, a part of Wolters Kluwer Health, a leading provider of information and business intelligence for students, professionals, and institutions in medicine, nursing, allied health, pharmacy and the pharmaceutical industry.

Myopia is the leading eye disability in the world: a “significant global public health concern,” according to Terri Young, PhD, of the Duke University Medical Center’s Department of Ophthalmology. About one-third of U. S. adults suffer from it, and the number of individuals with myopia is estimated to grow from 1.6 billion worldwide today to 2.5 billion by the year 2020 (Institute of Eye Research (IER) Annual Report 2006-7.)

According to the research published in Optometry & Vision Science, the critical factor for reducing the development of myopia in children seems to be total time spent outdoors during daylight hours. Sports or physical activity does not appear to play a role: studies found that both active and passive outdoor activities had a protective effect on vision, while sports played indoors were found not to have this effect. One of the issue’s guest editors, Donald Mutti, OD, PhD, FAAO, reports that a child’s chances of becoming myopic-if he or she has two myopic biological parents-are about 6 in 10 for children engaging in 0-5 hours per week of outdoor activity, but the risk drops to 2 in 10 when outdoor activity exceeds 14 hours a week.

The report, authored by Neville A. McBrien, MCOptom, PhD et al, is entitled ““Myopia: Recent Advances in Molecular Studies; Prevalence, Progression and Risk Factors; Emmetropization; Therapies; Optical Links; Peripheral Refraction; Sclera and Ocular Growth; Signalling Cascades; and Animal Models.” It includes findings presented at the 12th International Myopia Conference in Australia in July 2008. Supporting data includes:

• The Orinda Longitudal Study of Myopia shows that children with the risk factor for myopia of myopic parents, provided they spend sufficient time outside, are at only slightly greater risk than children without myopic parents.

• The Sydney Myopia Study, conducted with schoolchildren of European origin, indicates that greater time spent outside can override the greater risk associated with near work and schoolwork.

• The Singapore SCORM Study, which presented data similar to the Orinda and Sydney studies, but was conducted with children of Chinese, Malay, and Indian origin, suggests that the effect is likely to span ethnic groups.

The agreement among the above studies is unusual in the field of myopia research, according to Donald Mutti. “It’s a field generally renowned for its controversies rather than consensus.”

What are the exact mechanisms underlying the protective effects of outdoor time? “The features of outdoor activity (e. g. sunlight, distance viewing) that may be protective against myopia development remain to be determined,” state two contributors to the research, Jane Gwiazda, PhD and Li Deng of the New England College of Optometry in Boston.

The American Academy of Optometry, the society associated with the journal Optometry and Vision Science, and the publisher, Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, plan to make the entire January issue of Optometry and Vision Science available on an open-access basis upon publication.

About Optometry and Vision Science
The official journal of the American Academy of Optometry, Optometry and Vision Science publishes peer-reviewed reports of current developments and research in optometry, physiological optics, and vision science. It promotes a vital interdisciplinary exchange that helps optometrists and ophthalmologists alike deliver eye care that follows current treatment guidelines. Editor-in-Chief Dr. Anthony J. Adams, OD, PhD, DSc, FAAO is Professor and Dean Emeritus of the School of Optometry, University of California, Berkeley.

About The American Academy of Optometry
Since 1922, the American Academy of Optometry (AAO) has been enhancing excellence in optometric practice by fostering research and disseminating knowledge in vision science through the continuing education presented at its annual meeting.

About Lippincott Williams & Wilkins
Lippincott Williams & Wilkins is a leading international publisher for healthcare professionals and students with nearly 300 periodicals and 1,500 books in more than 100 disciplines publishing under the LWW brand, as well as content-based sites and online corporate and customer services. LWW is part of Wolters Kluwer Health, a leading provider of information and business intelligence for students, professionals and institutions in medicine, nursing, allied health, pharmacy and the pharmaceutical industry.

Wolters Kluwer Health is a division of Wolters Kluwer, a leading global information services and publishing company with annual revenues (2007) of €3.4 billion ($4.8 billion), maintains operations in over 33 countries across Europe, North America, and Asia Pacific and employs approximately 19,500 people worldwide. Visit for information about our market positions, customers, brands, and organization.

Source: Wolters Kluwer Health: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins

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