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How daylight and sunglasses may stop the surge in myopia

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Since the 1960’s, nearsightedness, also known as myopia, has doubled among kids and young people in the United States. The same is true in Europe.

In China, the news is even worse, with an estimated 90% of the population now suffering. 60 years ago, that number was just 15%. Scientists believe they now know what’s caused this problem and how to protect future generations.

So, what's going on?

I have to admit, when I heard this my first reaction was that it must be connected with the use of computers and other electronic devices. I was wrong. At least in part.

Researchers believe that the increase in myopia is caused by spending too much time inside. It’s not what kids do when they are inside that seems to cause the problem. The problem, they believe, is that kids are spending far more time inside today, than they did in previous decades. The lack of exposure to daylight and sunlight is what researchers believe to be the root cause.

Outdoors wearing sunglasses

So, how much outdoor time do kids need in order to avoid this type of non-genetic myopia? According to Ian Morgan, a myopia researcher at the Australian National University in Canberra, the answer is 3 hours a day. This is at light levels of at least 10,000 lux. That’s roughly the same as being under the shade of a tree on a sunny day, wearing sunglasses. So, they believe that a kid reading a book or using a smartphone / tablet in those outdoor conditions, would be fine.

As is often the case with new scientific findings, more research is needed. One area being looked at is the possible use of light boxes, usually used to treat Seasonal Affective Disorder. These devices are capable of producing 10,000 lux.

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