There is correlational evidence suggesting that people spending more time outdoors and/or less time narrow focusing inside on screens or other objects have better vision and lower rates of nearsightedness (myopia). For example, the incidence of myopia in children in the USA increased from 25% in the 1970’s to 42 % in the 2000’s.
The recent epidemic of nearsightedness is seen to be partially the result of going counter to evolutionary survival patterns that have involved continually alternating between looking nearby and at the distance. When looking up close the extraocular muscles contract to converge the eyes and the ciliary muscles around the lens contract to increase the curvature of the lens. When the eyes focus on the distance the eyes relax. If/when we predominantly look at nearby surfaces, we increase near visual stress and risk developing myopia and decreasing our peripheral vision.
the incidence of myopia in children in the USA increased from 25% in the 1970’s to 42 % in the 2000’s
There are increased health risks associated with myopia (e.g., glaucoma) and with reduced peripheral vision (e.g., accidents). Some simple solutions for decreasing the risk are:
- Have children play outside as much as possible where they automatically look far and near.
- When teaching children to read, have them look away at the end of every paragraph or page to allow their eyes to relax.
- Limit screen time and alternate with outdoor activities.
- Take breaks every 15-30 minutes when reading or watching screens and move around, look out a window, etc.
- When looking at a digital screen, look away every few minutes and briefly close your eyes.