German researchers have singled out higher education as one of the contributing factors to the development of myopia, nearsightedness, citing evidence that suggests vision declines in direct correlation to the level of education an individual receives.

The Gutenberg Health Study's article, "Myopia and Level of Education," was submitted to The American Academy of Ophthalmology in April and published June 17.

The study drafted a questionnaire for 4,685 respondent between the ages of 35 and 74 and concluded that the presence of myopia intensified when moving from individuals who never completed secondary school to those who graduated after nine years. The condition continued to increase in intesity when moving to groups of individuals who completed school after 10 years, on up to respondents who graduated after 13 years.

The study revealed that myopia affected 53 percent of participants who graduated from universities, 34.7 percent of those who completed secondary school and 34.6 percent of individuals who finished primary or vocational schools and didn't pursue professional training afterwards. Myopia was said to have affected 60.3 percent of individuals who graduated after 13 years of school, 41.6 percent of those who completed 10 years, and 27.2 percent of study participants who finished school after nine years.

The rising myopic effect wasn't bounded by gender, though age and genetics were observed having a minor impact on the development of myopia as education levels increased.

Myopia develops during childhood, as the eyes continue to grow, and progresses until around age 20. The development of myopia after adulthood has usually been attributed to stress on the eyes and diseases that affect vision.

Alireza Mirshahi, M.D., who led the Gutenburg Health Study, suggested that the world outside of classrooms and library could dampen the development of myopia.

"Since students appear to be at a higher risk of nearsightedness, it makes sense to encourage them to spend more time outdoors as a precaution," said Mirshahi.

A 2009 study published by the National Institutes of Health conduced that myopia had risen by 60 percent when comparing statistics from 1971 and 1972 with those recorded between 1999 and 2004. The study reported that cases of mild myopia swelled from 11.4 percent to 22.4 percent, while reports of moderate nearsightedness rose from 13.4 percent to 17.5 percent.

Dr. Maria Liu, head of the Myopia Control Clinic at UC Berkeley, cited technology and the increase of digital displays in our lives as another factor that contributes to myopia.

"There are a number of factors involved in the increase of myopia, but I have no doubt that changes in lifestyle over the past several decades that include more time spent indoors and the early use of handheld computers play a big role," said Liu.

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