Education may increase short-sightedness risk

Credit CC0 Public Domain

Carried out by researchers at the University of Bristol and Cardiff University, the study set out to determine whether education is a direct (causal) risk factor for short-sightedness, also known as myopia, or whether myopia is a causal risk factor for more years in education.

Studies have been observational in nature since exposing children to different levels of education in clinical trials would be unethical. Mendelian randomization analyses were performed in two directions; the first exposure was genetic predisposition to myopia, measured with 44 genetic variants, with years in education as the outcome, and the second exposure was genetic predisposition to higher levels of education, measured with 69 genetic variants, with refractory error the outcome. Having said that, the study found that there was not enough evidence to link the prevalence of myopia to people remaining in education or extending their years of study.

The researchers discovered that people with genetic variants associated with years of education were more likely to become nearsighted or myopic.

Myopia, or short-sight, is one of leading causes of visual disability in the world. Total, a British college graduate with 17 years of schooling would, on common, be at the least -1 dioptre extra myopic than somebody who left college at 16.

Many studies have reported strong links between education and myopia, but it is not clear whether increasing exposure to education causes myopia, myopic children are more studious, or socioeconomic position leads to myopia and higher levels of education. This difference in myopia severity is sufficient to obscure vision for driving underneath lawful benchmarks. Young Jewish boys from these communities had a much higher rate of myopia than young girls as they received a less, comparatively. However, being predisposed to myopia did not have any noticeable effect on one's education.

Although reduced exposure to natural daylight might not be the sole mechanism to explain the association between education and myopia, she writes, "given the advantages of time spent outdoors on mental health and the protection it provides against obesity and chronic diseases, we might all benefit from spending more time outside".

A linked editorial also added that in East Asia nearly 50% of children are myopic by the end of primary school compared with less than 10% in a study of British children, possibly due to a combination of intense educational pressure early in childhood and little time for outdoor play. They acknowledge that the people in their database were generally healthier than the general population, which could lead to bias.

Another reason, according to Dr. Denize Atan, the lead author of the study, is that students are less exposed to natural sunlight because they spend most of their time indoors.

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