Pandemic lockdowns may have affected kids in a subtle way, Chinese and US researchers reported Thursday. They found a significant rise in nearsightedness among young children in China.
Among children ages 6, 7 and 8, the researchers found that the rate of nearsightedness, or myopia, was higher in 2020 than in any of the past four years.
Nearsightedness rates did not change significantly among children 9-13, even though older children spent more time online, the US and Chinese team reported in the Journal of the American Medical Association- Ophthalmology.
It’s possible home confinement hit at an important time in vision development, where children are more sensitive to environmental changes, the team said.
The researchers analyzed results compiled from in-school vision screenings in Feicheng, China. Due to Covid-19, these vision screenings were conducted in June, after schools were shut down nationwide from January to May 2020.
The greatest increase in nearsightedness was among 6-year-olds, where the prevalence jumped from 5.7% in 2019 to 21.5% in 2020. Nearsightedness doubled among 7-year-olds over previous years, and increased 1.4 times in 8-year-olds.
They connected the increases to home confinement during Covid-19, and the change in screen time and outdoor activities.
“If home confinement is necessary, parents should control the children’s screen time as much as possible and increase the allowable outdoor activity while maintaining safe social distancing,” they wrote.