The prevalence of myopia among children in the UK has more than doubled over the last 50 years, according to research findings released jointly by the College of Optometrists and Ulster University yesterday (20 January).
The Northern Ireland Childhood Errors of Refraction (NICER) study, led by Ulster’s Professor Kathryn Saunders, found that nearly one in five teenagers in the UK is myopic.
It reported that children with one myopic parent are at least three times more likely to be myopic than those without a myopic parent. Researchers also found that this increased to over seven times more likely when both parents are myopes.
In addition, the research showed that myopia is most likely to occur between the ages of six and 13 years.
However, prevalence of myopia in white children in the UK was found to be much lower compared to Asian countries, where the majority of school leavers are myopic.
The NICER study was conducted by researchers at Ulster University and is the largest longitudinal research to be undertaken in the UK that examines changes in children’s vision and cycloplegic refractive error over time.
Using data gathered from more than 1000 children over the age of six, the College of Optometrists believes that the latest findings provide vital information on how children’s eyes will grow and change in the 21st century.
Professor Saunders, lead investigator of the NICER study, said: “These results give us a clear picture of how children’s eyes are developing, and ultimately could enable us to inform how optometrists practice and give advice to parents to help them protect their children’s precious eyesight, such as recommended ages for eyesight testing or specific risk factors that should indicate a sight test is needed.”
Commenting on the findings, director of research at the College of Optometrists, Michael Bowen, said: “Research suggests that early intervention can help slow down further increases in myopia, so sight tests in children at most risk of developing myopia are very important.”