May 15, 2012
Study: More Sunlight for Kids Means Better Eyesight
By Chad Love
There are any number of great reasons to periodically kick your kid(s) off the computer/iPad/gamebox/cell phone and throw them out of the house and into the great wide open. It's good for them in so many ways. But an interesting new study out of Australia suggests that getting children outside on a regular basis isn't just good exercise, it's good for their eyesight.
From this story on theaustralian.com:
SNUBBING the outdoors for books, video games and TV is the reason up to nine in 10 school-leavers in big East Asian cities are near-sighted, according to a new study. Neither genes nor the mere increase in activities like reading and writing is to blame, the researchers suggest, but a simple lack of sunlight.
Exposure to the sun's rays is believed to stimulate production of the chemical dopamine, which in turn stops the eyeball from growing elongated and distorting the focus of light entering the eye. “It's pretty clear that it is bright light stimulating dopamine release which prevents myopia,” researcher Ian Morgan of the Australian National University said of the findings published in The Lancet medical journal.
The study compared myopia rates among schoolchildren in various countries and found much higher rates of childhood myopia in nations where schoolchildren spend little time outdoors. In Singapore, for example, which has a young adult myopia rate of up to 90 percent, schoolchildren spend on average only thirty minutes a day outdoors. In contrast, Australian, where the myopia rate is around ten percent, children spend an average of three hours a day outdoors. In the UK, the myopia rate was 30 to 40 percent and in Africa it was pretty much nil. Researchers attribute the high rates to, well, there's no other way to put it, kids who study too much...
From the story: More than other groups, children in East Asia “basically go to school, they don't go outside at school, they go home and they stay inside. They study and they watch television,” the scientist said. The most myopic school-leavers in the world are to be found in cities in China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Japan, Singapore and South Korea, where between 80 and 90 per cent were affected...The researchers, collating the findings of studies from around the world, stressed that being a bookworm or computer geek does not in itself put you at risk. “As long as they get outside it doesn't seem to matter how much study they do,” explained Professor Morgan.
OK, so maybe not. Sorry, kids. But the scientists do say that too much study without a little outside play to balance things out isn’t a good thing.
From the story: “There are some kids who study hard and get outside and play hard and they are generally fine. The ones who are at major risk are the ones who study hard and don't get outside.” The scientist said children who spent two to three hours outside every day were “probably reasonably safe”. This could include time spent on the playground and walking to and from school. “The amount of time they spend on computer games, watching television can be a contributing factor. As far as we can tell it is not harmful in itself, but if it is a substitute for getting outside, then it is,” said Professor Morgan.
So there you go, more evidence for the wisdom of that old saying "all things in moderation." Except for maybe fishing. Or hunting. There's no way too much of that could wreck your life, your career and your bank balance, right? Well, OK, but at least it won’t make you go blind...