East Asians short-sighted for snubbing outdoors: study

Snubbing the outdoors for books, video games and TV is the reason up to nine in ten school-leavers in big East Asian cities are near-sighted, according to a study published on Friday.

Neither genes nor the mere increase in activities like reading and writing is to blame, the researchers suggest, but a simple lack of sunlight.

Exposure to the sun's rays is believed to stimulate production of the chemical dopamine, which in turn stops the eyeball from growing elongated and distorting the focus of light entering the eye.

"It's pretty clear that it is bright light stimulating dopamine release which prevents myopia," researcher Ian Morgan of the Australian National University told AFP of the findings published in The Lancet medical journal.

Yet the average primary school pupil in Singapore, where up to nine in ten young adults are myopic, spent only about 30 minutes outdoors every day -- compared to three hours for children in Australia where the myopia prevalence among children of European origin is about 10 percent.

The figure in Britain was about 30 to 40 percent and in Africa "virtually none" -- in the range of two to three percent, according to Morgan.

More than other groups, children in East Asia "basically go to school, they don't go outside at school, they go home and they stay inside. They study and they watch television," the scientist said.

The most myopic school-leavers in the world are to be found in cities in China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Japan, Singapore and South Korea, where between 80 and 90 percent were affected.

Of these, 10 to 20 percent had a condition called high myopia, which can lead to blindness.

"Most of what we've seen in East Asia is due to the environment, it is not genetic," said Morgan, contrary to the common belief 50 years ago.

The researchers, collating the findings of studies from around the world, stressed that being a bookworm or computer geek does not in itself put you at risk.

"As long as they get outside it doesn't seem to matter how much study they do," explained Morgan.

"There are some kids who study hard and get outside and play hard and they are generally fine. The ones who are at major risk are the ones who study hard and don't get outside."

The scientist said children who spent two to three hours outside every day were "probably reasonably safe". This could include time spent on the playground and walking to and from school.

"The amount of time they spend on computer games, watching television can be a contributing factor. As far as we can tell it is not harmful in itself, but if it is a substitute for getting outside, then it is," said Morgan.

He said ways must be found to get children to spend more time in reasonably bright daylight without compromising their schooling.

"It is going to require some sort of structural change in the way a child's time is organised in East Asia because there is so much commitment to schooling and there is also a habit of taking a nap at lunchtime, which is from our perspective prime myopia prevention time."

Loading...

Editor’s note:Yahoo Philippines encourages responsible comments that add dimension to the discussion. No bashing or hate speech, please. You can express your opinion without slamming others or making derogatory remarks.

  • Indonesia executes foreign drug convicts, defying global anger
    Indonesia executes foreign drug convicts, defying global anger

    Indonesia on Wednesday executed seven foreign drug convicts including two Australians by firing squad despite a storm of international anger, reports said, but a Filipina was spared at the 11th hour. Authorities put the seven plus a local man to death after midnight (1700 GMT Tuesday) on a high-security prison island in central Indonesia. Eight convicts -- two Australians, one from Brazil and four from Africa, as well as the Indonesian -- were put to death on Nusakambangan Island, MetroTV and …

  • Philippine woman drug convict execution delayed
    Philippine woman drug convict execution delayed

    CILICAP, Indonesia (AP) — Indonesia's attorney general says the execution has been delayed of a woman Philippine convict, one of nine people who had been due to face a firing squad. …

  • Mother of Filipina spared Indonesia execution hails 'miracle': radio
    Mother of Filipina spared Indonesia execution hails 'miracle': radio

    The mother of a Filipina drug convict reprieved at the 11th hour after facing execution in Indonesia told Philippine radio Wednesday: "Miracles do come true". Mary Jane Veloso was spared after someone suspected of recruiting her and tricking her into carrying drugs to Indonesia turned herself in to authorities in the Philippines, MetroTV and the Jakarta Post reported in Indonesia. "We are relieved that the execution of Mary Jane Veloso was not carried out tonight," said spokesman Charles …

  • Indonesia's attorney general says female Philippines drug convict spared from execution

    CILACAP, Indonesia (AP) — Indonesia's attorney general says female Philippines drug convict spared from execution. …

  • Indonesia delays execution of Filipina drug convict
    Indonesia delays execution of Filipina drug convict

    The execution of a Filipina drug convict by an Indonesian firing squad was delayed at the last minute after one of her recruiters surrendered to police in the Philippines, the attorney general's spokesman said on Wednesday. "The execution of Mary Jane (Veloso) has been postponed because there was a request from the Philippine president related to a perpetrator suspected of human trafficking who surrendered herself in the Philippines," said Tony Spontana, spokesman for the attorney general. …

  • Pacquiao sees fist of God delivering win over Mayweather
    Pacquiao sees fist of God delivering win over Mayweather

    Filipino boxing hero Manny Pacquiao is confident he can beat American arch-rival Floyd Mayweather in Las Vegas on Saturday with the power of God, after abandoning a life he said was packed with sin condemning him to hell. Pacquiao is in top form both in mind and spirit after he traded his boozing, gambling and womanising ways for a devout life of prayer, his spiritual adviser, Jeric Soriano, told AFP in a recent Manila interview. Except the world got to him," Soriano said of Pacquiao's …

  • Mary Jane, family say last goodbyes
    Mary Jane, family say last goodbyes

    Filipino death convict Mary Jane Veloso and her family went to mass yesterday morning, had lunch and bade each other tearful goodbyes. Veloso admonished her family not to do anything that would damage relations between the Philippines and Indonesia, according to the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA). They were her family in the past five years,” the Philippine embassy in Indonesia said. Her family, while they hoped for a miracle, seemed to be resigned to her fate. …

  • Heat index to reach 40ºC this week
    Heat index to reach 40ºC this week

    Take precautions against heat cramps and exhaustion as the heat index is expected to reach above 40 degrees Celsius later this week, the state weather bureau advised people in Metro Manila and in Laoag and Tuguegarao cities in Northern Luzon yesterday. The Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA) said the heat index is expected to hit 40.2 degrees Celsius in Metro Manila and 40.7 degrees and 40.2 degrees in Laoag City, Ilocos Norte and Tuguegarao …

POLL

Should Aquino be held accountable over the Mamasapano operations?

Loading...
Poll Choice Options