Wednesday, June 12

Could Studying Cause Nearsightedness? New Research Says it’s Possible

The image of the stereotypical nerd wearing a pocket protector and glasses is hard to let go of. New studies suggest that, in fact, there might be some correlation between how long someone studies, and how likely they are to need glasses for nearsightedness.The study, published in the journal Ophthalmology, was conducted by researchers at University Medical Center Mainz in Germany, and a total of 5,000 German residents were tested. Their findings suggested that educational level was a more important predictor of myopia, also known as nearsightedness, than genetics.

“About 50 years ago myopia was thought to be almost completely determined by genetics,” said Alireza Mirshahi, a researcher and ophthalmologist at the University. “We see that genetic factors do play a role, but the role of environmental factors is much more important.” A recent, 2009 study found that in the U.S., myopia had gone from affecting 25% of the population to 41% over the past four decades — one of many hints that genetics were not the only reason it was occurring.

The researchers in the new study found that each year of schooling further increased a person’s risk of developing myopia. Those participants who had completed nine years of school experienced a 27% chance of myopia, while those who had 13 years of education and had a 50% chance.

Mirshahi wants to stress that there is only an association between the two — it is not a sign that “someone who is not myopic is bad at school,” as he says. Previous research seems to suggest that greater levels of outdoor exercise can help prevent nearsightedness, though the full reasons for the correlation remain unclear.

“After all of my extensive schooling from primary school to college, I realized that taking frequent breaks when studying made my eyes feel much better, and looking off into the distance certainly helped with eye fatigue,” says Craig Anderson, CEO of The Sunglass Fix. “Going outdoors helped, in conjunction with a good pair of sunglasses to further help protect tired eyes.”

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