More children may have developed nearsightedness as an unexpected side effect of the COVID-19 pandemic, a new study suggests.
An analysis of eye test data from nearly 2,000 Hong Kong school-age children revealed that the rate of nearsightedness that developed during the pandemic more than doubled what was found in a pre-pandemic study of children the same age, according to the report in the British Journal of Ophthalmology.
“When people think of consequences that this unprecedented level of quarantine has on physical and mental health, it is not initially obvious that children’s visual development is one of them,” a co-author of the study, Dr. Jason C.S. Yam, an associate professor of ophthalmology and visual sciences at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, said by email.
“Our study showed that less time spent outdoors and more time spent on near work, including screen time, is associated with faster progression in short-sightedness, or myopia," Yam said.
While myopia may seem like an innocuous condition, it can predispose people to other ocular complications and increased risk of vision loss later in life, he said.
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