Prevalence of Nearsightedness Increases in US

A new study from the National Eye Institute finds that a considerably higher amount of Americans suffer from nearsightedness, also known as myopia, today than in the early 1970s.

The study, published in the Archives of Ophthalmology, collected data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey to compare the percentage of Americans with myopia between ages 12-54 from 1971-1972, and then during the period of 1999-2004.

Reuters Health reports that from 1971 to 1972, it was found that about 25 percent of Americans had myopia. Between the period of 1999 to 2004, it increased to 42 percent, making the occurrence of myopia 66 percent higher than in the early 70s.

According to ABC News, the study did not examine the reasons for the increase; however, experts say the causes could include genetics, poor lighting, and an increase in the amount of “near work”, such as computer use and texting.  Another reason may be that people are not spending enough time outside where vision is stimulated by focusing on objects further away.

Lead study author, Dr. Susan Vitale, tells ABC News:

“It was really good to be able to confirm this was going on. While myopia is pretty easily treated, when a lot of people — 40 or 50 million people — it ends up costing the U.S. about $2 to $3 billion annually. So it’s an important problem if it’s on the increase.”

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