Study finds short-sightedness in young is ‘nearly double’ that in older people

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Numbers of people suffering from short-sightedness are increasing across Europe, with the problem nearly twice as common in those aged between 25 and 29 as those three decades older.

Research carried out by King’s College London found the condition, known as myopia, was also twice as prevalent in those who had been through higher education compared those who left school before 16.

Experts said this may reflect a number of factors, such as people who have spent more time studying being in outdoor light less, an increase in the use of computers, a longer educational day, and being involved in less outdoor play.

Shared genetic factors underlying myopia and intelligence, or factors related to educational opportunity such as socio-economic status or maternal nutrition were also raised as potential factors.

Myopia is already the most common eye condition worldwide but experts say the prevalence is “significantly increasing”, especially in south east Asia.

They found that compared with participants born in the 1920s with only primary education, reaching higher education or being born in the 1960s doubled the chance of myopia.

Individuals born in the 1960s who completed higher education were at approximately four times the risk. The research found a high prevalence of the condition in those aged 25 to 29, at 47.2 per cent, compared to just 27.5 per cent in those aged 55 to 59.

Myopia generally develops during childhood and adolescence, causing blurred vision.

Lead author Katie Williams, of the department of ophthalmology at King’s College London, said: “We knew myopia was becoming more common in certain parts of the world - almost eight in 10 young people are affected in urban east Asia - but it is very interesting to find that the same pattern is being seen here in Europe. This has major implications for the future burden from this eye disease which can threaten sight in older age, particularly in very short-sighted people.”