Should we encourage children to play outdoors to help them grow healthier eyes?
At a time when a worldwide epidemic of myopia is now predicted, research into both its causes and prevention is of particular relevance to the workforce. It used to be held that time spent staring close-up at screens was to blame, but the latest research suggests that close-work is not the only culprit.
A decade ago, America’s National Eye Institute (NEI) published its ground-breaking research on myopia. This showed that, if a child has two near-sighted parents, they have a 60% chance of needing glasses if time spent outdoors is low. However, spending 14 hours a week outdoors can reduce this likelihood of needing glasses to about 20%. Unfortunately once myopia sets in, it seems extra time spent outdoors won’t reverse nor slow its progress.
The NEI now point to a recent survey of papers from countries including Australia, England and Singapore that supports their findings from 2007. But why exactly is time outdoors in the early years so important? The dominant theory is that exposure to daylight stimulates the release of dopamine, which in turn results in the more normal growth of the eye. So, sending your children or grandchildren outdoors would seem to be the way forward for healthier eyes (needless to say, equipped with sunglasses and sun cream on high UV days).
The fact is that everything we see is in truth generated by the stimulus of light reflected into the eye. For most of us, most of our sensory perception is governed by our sight, and all light is not the same. So, our performance and how we feel are both heavily influenced by the light we live under. Shedding a different light, changes what we can see and how we feel.
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