New child myopia report highlights looming public health crisis for Australian children

New child myopia report highlights looming public health crisis for Australian children

Slowing progression of child myopia is critical

Myopia, or short-sightedness, is forecast to reach epidemic proportions. Alarmingly, increases in the global prevalence of myopia and high myopia mean that by 2020, it is estimated that more than 2 billion people worldwide will be affected. By 2050, it is estimated that more than 50 per cent of the world’s population will have myopia and 10% or almost 1 billion will have high myopia. Thirty-six per cent of Australians are predicted to be myopic by 2020 and by 2050, that number is set to increase to 55 per cent.

Today marks the official launch of ‘The Australia and New Zealand Child Myopia Report – A Focus on Future Management’. This report, launched by the Australia and New Zealand Child Myopia Working Group, brings together the latest evidence-based data to better understand this looming public health issue facing Australian children.

Optometry Australia’s Luke Arundel, a member of the working group comments, “Myopia is rapidly becoming a serious public health concern in Australia, yet new research shows that 65 per cent of Australian parents (with children 0-17 years old) do not know what myopia is, and only 12 per cent of parents recognise the health risk that their children might develop later in life from child myopia. This is of significant concern given that high myopia is also associated with comorbidities including retinal detachment, glaucoma, cataracts and myopic maculopathy. The risk of developing any of these conditions increases along with any increase in myopia.”

Mr Arundel continues, “One reason for the increase in prevalence of high myopia is that the onset of myopia is occurring earlier in life. In 1983, the typical onset of myopia was at around 11 years of age. However in 2000, the average onset of myopia was just 8 years of age. Reducing the prevalence and impact of myopia and understanding influencing factors is critical.”

Myopia is a common eye condition that causes blurred distance vision and usually starts during childhood and typically progresses until the child stops growing. There are two main factors which can mean your child is more at risk of developing myopia: lifestyle and family history.

Lifestyle: modern lifestyles may influence the development of myopia. These include:

  • Low levels of outdoor activity and associated factors including:
  • Low levels of light exposure
  • Prolonged near tasks such as reading

Family history: the likelihood of developing myopia, particularly high myopia increases when one or both parents are myopic. However, the exact link between a family history of myopia and development of childhood myopia remains uncertain. It seems very little is known about lifestyle impacts on myopia. Less than 1 per cent of Australian parents of children aged under 12 years say reducing screen time is the best course of action for primary school-aged children diagnosed with myopia, and less than 1 per cent acknowledged the role of increasing the amount of time spent outdoors.

Seventy-three per cent of parents do not know that genetics might influence the development of myopia in children, and 91 per cent are not aware of the role that excessive screen time – TV, computers, mobile devices etc – can play in myopia prevalence and progression.

Melbourne mum, Jenny Lau comments, “I have three daughters who have been diagnosed as myopic, so I am now very aware of the importance of managing myopia and not just simply correcting their vision.

“Having a discussion around the best way to manage their myopia with our optometrist has been critical. Everyone’s eye sight is different, progresses differently, as is the case with my girls and should be managed using the best option for each of their circumstances,” concluded Ms Lau.

Key statistics

  • 76% of parents of children under 12 years old believe being prescribed glasses is the best course of action if a primary school-age child is diagnosed with myopia. In fact, there are many treatment options that should be discussed when managing myopia.
  • Almost half (49%) of Australian parents of children aged 17 years and under admit they do not know what causes myopia.
  • Only 12% of parents know of the lifestyle factors that have an impact on child myopia (low levels of outdoor activity, low levels of light exposure, prolonged near tasks such as reading and gaming on portable devices).
  • 31% of Australian kids (17 years and under) have never been to an optometrist to have an eye examination.
  • 44% of children have not been to an optometrist to have an eye examination before their ninth birthday.

For further information about child myopia click here to make an appointment with an optometrist near you today.

To download a free copy of the report and for further information on child myopia visit www.childmyopia.com.

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