Myopia and Population

Studies show myopia is a significant global public health concern.1-8

Many across the world suggest that myopia is nearing or at “epidemic” status, citing the increasing prevalence in Asian regions and steady increases in the U.S. and Europe. The prevalence of myopia is estimated to be over 30% in the U.S. and Europe, having nearly doubled in the U.S. over the past 30 years, according to a National Eye Institute report. In Asia, some countries have reported prevalence rates of 80%-90% or greater.

  • In the United States, myopia has drastically increased over the past thirty years so that now over 30% of people are myopic. It has become an issue of monumental importance affecting over a billion people around the world and it is getting worse.
  • In Taiwan, one report detailed a prevalence of 97% among university students. A survey by China’s Ministry of Education found that 85% of students in China wear glasses. They warn that for the next 100 years, East Asia will face an adult population “at high risk of developing pathological myopia,” a condition that can lead to serious sight loss.
  • As many as 90% of urban youth in China are nearsighted. That’s about three times the rate among U.S. children. Even more troubling is the severity of the Chinese cases. Between 10% and 20% of nearsighted Chinese children are expected to develop “high myopia,” which is largely untreatable today and may lead to blindness.

Why is Myopia Increasing?1-8

Unfortunately, there is no one clear answer. Obviously, heredity is a factor. However, our ongoing obsession with mobile computing devices brings extended hours of close-up work that could be stressful for the eyes. Modern work and lifestyle have forced us to spend long hours in close-up work such as using computers, using cellphones and reading books online, making young people more susceptible to eye fatigue and changes in vision.

Why is Myopia a Concern?1-8

Myopia develops rapidly as children grow. Cases of “high myopia” (over -5.00 diopters) are increasing, especially in Asia where 10-20% of school-age children suffer from high myopia. The development in children is particularly disturbing because it gives them a longer time to become highly myopic, because the eye continues to elongate, increasing their risk of more serious vision problems in adulthood. People with “high myopia” are at greater risk of acute eye problems, such as retinal detachment, cataracts or glaucoma or other severe eye problems.

    References: Updated prevalence to reflect revised estimated prevalence of Myopia in young adults - Adapted from Dolgin E. (2015).  The Myopic Boom.  Nature, 519, 276-279 and Vitale S., et al (2009). Increased Prevalence of Myopia in the United States Between 1971-1972 and 1999-2004. Archives of Ophthalmology 127(12), 1632-1639.1. Vitale S, Sperduto R, Ferris F. Increased Prevalence Of Myopia In The United States Between 1971-1972 and 1999-2004. Archives of Ophthalmology. 2009;127(12);1632-1639. 2. Morgan I, Ohno-Matsui K, Saw S. Myopia. The Lancet. 2012;379:1739-1748. 3. Chen T. Myopia epidemic sets off alarm bells. The Wall Street Journal. May 12, 2012. 4. Myopia: Prevention and Control. Retrieved November 25, 2014, from http://myopiaprevention.org/. 5. Heiting G. Why Myopia Progression Is A Concern. Retrieved November 25, 2014, from http://www.allaboutvision.com/. 6. Pierson D. China's myopia epidemic comes into focus. Los Angeles Times. July 5, 2012. 7. Park A. Why Up To 90% of Asian Schoolchildren Are Nearsighted. Time Magazine. May 7, 2012. 8. Kiang KH. First Singapore Eye Research Institute. International Meeting, September 28, 2001. ng of a Novel SCL Optical Design to Reduce Suspected Risk Factors for the Progression of Juvenile Onset Myopia. ARVO Poster.