Pandemic trend concerning
The recent trend is concerning because the earlier myopia starts, the more quickly it deteriorates, which results in worse vision in adulthood.
An adult with high myopia has an increased risk of permanent blindness because of macular degeneration, cataracts and tears or detachment of the retina.
Pauline Kang, senior lecturer at UNSW School of Optometry & Vision Science, and her research team tracked 17 patients at their Myopia Clinic. On average, the children’s eyesight had deteriorated at nearly twice the rate in 2020 compared with 2019. The team is now analysing their 2021 data.
International studies are also showing a rapid rise in myopia since the pandemic started. One peer-reviewed Chinese study involving 120,000 six-year-olds found a 400% increase in myopia in 2020 compared with 2019, correlating with a period of state-ordered home confinement.
In 2021 Hong Kong researchers found a 10% rise in myopia among 709 children between the ages of six and eight, affecting nearly one in five of the children studied.
Australian figures show the percentage of 17-year-olds with myopia, had already risen from 20 to 30% before the pandemic.