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    Myopia Soaring Among Chinese School Students: New Survey

    Citing increased screen time and academic pressure, the study shows the prevalence of myopia among high schoolers is 89.7%.

    Data from a new survey shows that the prevalence of childhood myopia in China, already among the world’s highest, has soared even more with increased screen time and academic pressure.

    The myopia rate among the country’s high schoolers — aged 16 to 18 — is as high as 89.7%, according to a white paper report released Saturday by China Charities Aid Foundation for Children and ophthalmic medical chain group Huaxia Eye Hospital. 

    The rate among middle school students — aged 13 to 15 — is 78.2%, followed by 54% for children between the ages of 7 and 12.

    The survey is based on data collected from more than 4.56 million students across 51 cities in 19 provincial-level regions between 2019 and 2021, when screen time for school students increased drastically as they shifted to online classes amid the COVID-19 pandemic. 

    In 2018, the myopia rates among China’s high schoolers, middle schoolers, and primary schoolers were 81.0%, 71.6%, and 36.0%, respectively, according to data released by the Ministry of Education.

    The research findings highlight disparities in both gender and region. While data shows girls exhibit a higher myopia rate compared to boys, the condition is more prevalent among students from eastern and northern China, as well as urban regions. 

    This suggests that factors such as the level of economic development, screen time, and natural influences play a significant role in the progression of myopia, as indicated by the report.

    The survey also finds a significant correlation between the myopia rate and the school year that students are in. The older they get, the bigger their academic workload becomes. “They have more opportunities to use electronic devices. The combined impacts of these factors will lead to an excessive burden on the eyes,” stated the report. 

    The alarming rate has caught the attention of the government, which, in 2021, set up an expert committee to tackle the problem among school students, and earlier this year rolled out new measures to address the issue. 

    Amid the government push, awareness of childhood myopia is on the rise among parents. Many Chinese parents, who pressure their child to improve themselves academically, have now shifted their focus toward prioritizing the health of their children’s eyes.

    In recent months, thousands of posts have flooded the Chinese social platform Xiaohongshu, where parents share their experiences in attempting to improve their children’s eyesight. 

    In addition to suggestions such as limiting video game time and ensuring regular physical exercise, some go to extreme lengths by even suggesting preferred lighting conditions for conducting outdoor sports and for reading indoors.

    Editor: Apurva. 

    (Header image: VCG)