More School Years Linked to Worse Vision

Myopia occurrence and severity increased with years and level of education

(RxWiki News) In some cases, vision problems are related to genetics. But for many people, other factors may be behind those vision problems.

Almost half of all Americans are nearsighted, a condition called myopia. Some myopia is associated with specific genetic changes, but that only accounts for a small percentage of all the cases.

A research team from Germany studied the link between myopia and years in school. The researchers recently reported that nearsightedness became more common and got worse with the number of years spent in school and with higher levels of education.

"Have regular vision examinations."

The lead researcher on the study was Alireza Mirshahi, MD, from the Department of Ophthalmology at the University Medical Center in Mainz, Germany.

The researchers included 4,658 people from Germany aged 35 to 74. All study participants had an eye exam as part of the study.

The researchers collected data on the participants about how many years they went to school and the highest level of education they attained. They also looked at several genetic markers in the participants that were associated with myopia.

Students in Germany go to secondary school from grade 5 through 13. They can leave secondary school and go to vocational school after grade 9 or 10.

Dr. Mirshahi and his team found that nearsightedness was worse in people who graduated from school after 13 years (graduated high school) than in those who left secondary school after 10 years.

People who left secondary school after 9 years had worse nearsightedness than those who never finished secondary school.

The number of people who were myopic also was associated with the number of years spent in school.

Myopia was present in 60 percent of the people who graduated after 13 years in school, about 42 percent of those who left after 10 years, and in 27 percent of those who left after 9 years or never graduated.

The proportion of people with nearsightedness was also associated with the level of education the people in the study finished.

Fifty-three percent of people who graduated from college were myopic, 35 percent of those who graduated from secondary school or vocational school, and 24 percent of those who did not have any professional training.

The genetic markers analyzed by the researchers were not as closely associated with myopia as the education levels.

The authors commented that higher educational achievement was associated with time spent indoors and doing close-up work.

More work insides meant less time spent outdoors and the authors felt the amount of time spent indoors could be a factor contributing to increased nearsightedness.

“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,” remarked Dr. Mirshahi.

A couple limitations of the study were noted by the authors. The authors asked people to participate and 60 percent agreed. The study authors felt it was possible that fewer highly educated people participated in the study than other education levels.

Additionally, the study did not include data on time spent outdoors, so this factor was not addressed by the study.

The study was published in the June issue of Ophthalmology.

Funding for the study was provided by the government of Rhineland-Palatinate, Germany, Boehringer Ingelheim and Philips Medical Systems.

The authors declared no conflicts of interest.

Review Date: 
June 29, 2014