Educated eyes

Education offers many things. It is perhaps the singular pillar on which an enlightened society rests. For the individual higher education levels are linked to reduced risks of many diseases and an increased range of career options. For the educated too there is the unlimited joy of pompous posturing when around those less steeped in your sphere of specialisation. There is also the endless search for those precious moments when you feel a frisson of excitement as you use specialist jargon from your field of expertise that no-one with a half-decent social life has heard before. Indeed, the benefits of education are many but it does seem there may be at least one drawback to higher education.

In a new study researchers examined the relationship between nearsightedness (myopia) and environmental factors in 4,658 myopic people aged between 35 and 74. If you are nearsighted, you have trouble seeing things that are far away. Nearsightedness occurs when the physical length of the eye is greater than the optical length. This makes it more difficult for the eyes to focus light directly on the retina. If the light rays are not clearly focused on the retina, the images you see may be blurry. A nearsighted person sees close up objects clearly, but objects in the distance are blurred. Squinting will tend to make far away objects seem clearer.

The results of the study showed a link between nearsightedness and education levels. It emerged that 53 per cent of university graduates were nearsighted compared with 35 per cent of high school educated people and 24 per cent of people without a high school education. In addition, the more years people spent in education the greater their degree of myopia. In fact, for every year of education nearsightedness worsened.

Other research from Denmark and Asia has indicated that more time spent outdoors is correlated with lower risk of nearsightedness. So time spent indoors studying does seem to increase your risk of becoming nearsighted. Of course that doesn’t mean you should avoid education because your loss of one sort of ophthalmic vision is compensated for by the expansion of another kind of vision.

Terry Robson

Terry Robson

Terry Robson is the Editor-in-Chief of WellBeing and the Editor of EatWell.

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