Lockdown screen time having negative effect on nation’s eye health

More than one in three people have reported deteriorating eyesight due to increased screen time during the pandemic, Fight for Sight says

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The coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has caused a large deterioration in the nation’s eyesight, according to Fight for Sight.

The charity has revealed that more than one in three (38%) of people in the UK believe that increased screen time in recent months has made their eyes worse.

The online poll, conducted by YouGov on behalf of Fight for Sight, shows that 49% of respondents’ screen time has increased since the pandemic began.

50% of students and 42% of working adults who have been using screens more during lockdown believe their eyesight has been affected. 39% report having difficultly reading as a result, 23% are experiencing headaches or migraines, and 17% believe they have poorer night vision.

Despite the issues that many are facing, 21% said they were less likely to get an eye test now than they were before the pandemic, due to fear of catching or spreading the virus.

The survey of 2012 adults was carried out online in November 2020.

Fight for Sight is reminding the public that, under health and safety legislation in the UK, employers must pay for an eye test for their employees if they use a screen for more than an hour a day for work.

They are also emphasising the importance of regular eye tests, and reminding people that the majority of optometrists are currently open for routine appointments where capacity allows.

Research has not yet conclusively confirmed that increased screen time can lead to deteriorating sight. However, studies have highlighted the potential risk of rising myopia rates due to children spending more time indoors, performing ‘near tasks’ and using smartphones and other devices.

Professor Jeremy Guggenheim, a Fight for Sight funded researcher, who specialises in myopia research, said: “Research has shown convincingly that insufficient time spent outdoors is a risk factor for myopia. Excessive time viewing electronic devices may pose an additional risk. Therefore, clinicians around the world are worried that COVID-19 lockdown restrictions may elevate the already high levels of myopia in many regions.”

Chief executive at Fight for Sight, Sherine Krause, said that it is “vital that the benefits of increased digital access and use during lockdown do not come at the detriment of our eye health.”