There is a new reason to put down that iPad or switch off the computer screen and it’s much more serious than a bad night of sleep or an angry spouse who feels ignored.
A study recently published in the journal “Ophthalmology” is predicting that by midcentury, the year 2050, over half of the population of the world will be nearsighted. This is roughly five billion people.
Out of those who will be nearsighted, about one billion of them will experience an increased risk of blindness if the current trend continues. Researchers expect that nearsightedness will become a leading cause of permanent blindness around the world by 2050.
The authors of the study said that the increase of nearsightedness around the world can be attributed to lifestyle changes. These changes include the decreased amount of time that people spend outdoors and increased activities that involve staring at a screen for long periods of time, such as working on a computer or using a smartphone.
The findings were the result of a collaboration of individuals from the Brien Holden Vision Institute, University of New South Wales Australia and Singapore Eye Research Institute.
The authors of the study have explored and offered suggestions on how to combat this growing health problem. First, the authors believe it’s important to begin planning for eye care services that will be needed in the future to manage the increase in cases of nearsightedness.
The authors also said that it is important to begin looking at the treatments needed to both control and prevent people from developing nearsightedness.
Professor Kovin Naidoo was a co-author of the study and is the CEO of Brien Holden Vision Institute. Naidoo is also concerned with the eye health of children and what should be done to prevent this problem for them later in life.
“We also need to ensure our children receive a regular eye examination from an optometrist or ophthalmologist, preferably each year, so that preventative strategies can be employed if they are at risk,” Naidoo said.
Naidoo said that these strategies could mean spending more time outside and spending less time on “near based activities” such as smartphones, computers and tablets that require a prolonged and constant focus on a screen up close.
The researchers believe that the key to combating this problem is to invest in research to improve the treatments of nearsightedness and to make these treatments more accessible.