Myopia (short-sightedness) is on the rise among Australia children but the increase in statistics is almost entirely preventable.
The escalation of children needing glasses for short-sightedness has been attributed to two major factors:
1. Young people are spending more time with ‘near work’ which includes reading traditional text as well as electronic devices.
2. Young people are spending less time outside enjoying the sunshine and great outdoors.
What is surprising is that the second factor is having a far greater impact than the first. School studies have always been comprised of ‘near work’ so it is the diminishing time spent outdoors that is contributing to the rise in short-sightedness in our young people today.
However, when the decrease in time spent outdoors is combined with excessive (not school related) screen time then those children are at a much higher risk of developing myopia.
In an ABC article by Louise Merrillees, Former President of the Optometrists Association Australia Stephen Leslie said, “If you spend less than 1.5 hours per day outside you’re at moderate to high risk of becoming short-sighted.” The article also cites studies in USA, Australia and China which found a direct relationship between a decrease in the amount of time outdoors and an increase in myopia.
The article is talking about the increase in myopia as a generalisation and not stating that everyone who wears glasses for short-sightedness didn’t spend enough time outdoors. There are lots of other causes for myopia such as genetics or being born with the condition.
So why am I talking about myopia in my final Principal’s Blog of the term?
The September school holidays are upon us and they are arguably the best time of the year to increase the time we spend outdoors with our children. We don’t have the rain of the Easter holidays, the chill and short daylight hours of July holidays or the skyrocketing heat of the December/January break. September and October are probably the most pleasant months in the Queensland calendar!
It would be wonderful for the drought to break but while we have this beautiful weather, let’s get outside and enjoy it!
School holidays are also an ideal time to take your child to the optometrist to have their vision checked. Once a child reaches the age of five, he or she should be checked every second year and more often if there is a problem or perceived change to vision. We are fortunate that these bi-annual check-ups are free in Australia under Medicare. Early intervention can drastically improve children’s performance in the classroom and cut down on discipline problems.
I look forward to seeing you all next term.
Mike Curtis, Principal