A new research based on genetic data reveals that spending more time studying in school can indeed have a negative effect on people's eyesight. One reason for this, according to researchers, is the reduced exposure to natural daylight.

Education And Nearsightedness

Nearsightedness, also known as shortsightedness or myopia, is the inability to focus and see things or objects clearly when they are far away.

According to the National Eye Institute, nearsightedness affects around 25 percent of the population in the United States. In Britain, it is estimated that up to 40 percent of adults suffer from the condition.

Fortunately, nearsightedness is an eye-focusing disorder, not an eye disease. It can be corrected with eyeglasses, contact lenses, or surgery.

New Study

In the new study published in the BMJ on June 6, researchers from the University of Bristol and the Cardiff University examined genetic data of more than 67,000 individuals between the ages of 40 and 69 years old.

The individuals have been a part of UK Biobank, which is a long-term biobank study in the United Kingdom that aimed to investigate the effects of genetics on people's health.

Using a statistical method called "mendelian randomization," the researchers looked for genetic variants related to nearsightedness and genetic predisposition to higher educational attainment.

Findings

The researchers discovered that people with genetic variants associated with years of education were more likely to become nearsighted or myopic. They found that people who went on to study in universities were more likely to develop vision problems than those who left school at the age of 16.

While previous studies only showed the existence of a link between education and nearsightedness, researchers say the current study provides a strong evidence for a causal relationship between the two.

"This study shows that exposure to more years in education contributes to the rising prevalence of myopia, and highlights a need for further research and discussion about how educational practices might be improved to achieve better outcomes without adversely affecting vision," the researchers concluded.

Why Studying Increases Risk Of Becoming Nearsighted?

There are a number of reasons why studying increases people's risk of developing myopia, according to the researchers. One of the reasons is that students usually spend most of their time focusing or looking at screens, books, or other objects held close to the eyes.

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.

In the study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association - Opthalmology, researchers found that spending more time in the great outdoors early in life offers some form of protection against visual problems later in adulthood.

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