Rapid rise of Myopia in Asia due to kids not playing outside enough

March 30, 2015

The Current, CBC Radio's morning current affairs program did a segment on the growing epidemic of myopia in industrialized countries.  One interesting finding was the decreased prevalence of myopia in children who spend more time outside.  

A British campaign designed to encourage kids to spend more time outside launched last year after research showed most kids were spending less than an hour a day outside - the lowest of any generation. Their parents spent an average of more than two-and-a-half hours in the fresh air each day when they were kids. 

\And of course, getting kids outside is about more than just fun and exercise. There's been much talk in recent years about the benefits of unstructured play time, for example.

\Now, a new and unexpected benefit is coming to light... one that's right under your nose... or rather, right above your nose... It turns out that getting outside, may be crucial for the health of our eyes. It's a relationship that some researchers have been looking into to help explain a dramatic increase in myopia — or near-sightedness. It's been especially prevalent in Asia, and among children there.

And it's something Kathryn Rose has been looking into. She's the head of orthoptics at the University of Technology, in Sydney, Australia. 

For a Canadian perspective on myopia and its rate of incidence here, we were joined by Setareh Ziai. She's an Assistant Professor of Opthalmology at the University of Ottawa Eye Institute.

This segment was produced by The Current's Liz Hoath.