Is staying at home increasing the risk of myopia?

January 20, 2021
Miranda Hester

Ms. Hester is Content Specialist with Contemporary OB/GYN and Contemporary Pediatrics.

An investigation examines whether the large amount of time at home is increasing the risk of myopia for young children.

The pandemic has led to a number of changes in children’s lives, including going to school at home, socializing less with their peers, and spending more time indoors. A new investigation in JAMA Ophthalmology examined whether the period of home confinement caused by the pandemic led to an increased burden of myopia.1

The researchers ran a prospective cross-sectional study that used the school-based photoscreening results from children aged 6 to 13 years in elementary schools in Feicheng, China. The results from the period spent in home confinement were compared with data from previous years. During the testing the spherical equivalent refraction was noted for each child.

A total of 123,535 children were included in the analysis, with 64,335 being boys. Test results from 194,904 photoscreener examinations were included in the study. The researchers found that there had been a significant myopic shift (approximately −0.3 diopters [D]) in the 2020 photoscreenings among the younger children aged 6 (−0.32 D), 7 (−0.28 D), and 8 (−0.29 D) years, when compared to the previous years of 2015-2019. Additionally, the prevalence of myopia found in 2020 through photoscreen exams was higher than the previous highest prevalence of myopia in 2015-2019 for children aged 6 (21.5% vs 5.7%), 7 (26.2% vs 16.2%), and 8 (37.2% vs 27.7%) years. For children aged 9 to 13 years, the differences in both spherical equivalent refraction and the prevalence of myopia in 2020 when compared to previous years was minimal.

The investigators concluded that being confined to home due to the pandemic seemed to be linked to a high level of myopic shift in children aged 6 to 8 years. They speculated that younger children may be more sensitive to any change in the environment than older children because the younger children are at a critical point in the potential development of myopia. However, they did note that some caution should be used when considering these links because of the lack of orthokeratology history or ocular biometry data for the participants. Further research could help provide further proof and eliminate these cautions.

Reference

1. Wang J, Li Y, Musch D, et al. Progression of myopia in school-aged children after COVID-19 home confinement. JAMA Ophthalmol. January 14, 2021. Epub ahead of print. doi:10.1001/jamaophthalmol.2020.6239