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James Loughman, Saoirse McCrann, john butler, Ian Flitcroft; Smartphone Usage as a Possible Contributor to the Increasing Prevalence of Myopia. Invest. Ophthalmol. Vis. Sci. 2019;60(9):5855.
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© ARVO (1962-2015); The Authors (2016-present)
Increasing near work demands and decreasing levels of exposure to the outdoors environment have been suggested as important contributors to the precipitous rise in myopia prevalence. The increasing amount of time children and young people spend using smartphones substantially increases near visual demands and occupies leisure time that might otherwise be spent outdoors. This study was designed, therefore, to explore the idea that smartphone use might be a new and independent risk factor for myopia development and progression.
Students in primary, secondary and tertiary level education were invited to participate and complete a questionnaire designed to explore their patterns of smartphone use. Time spent using a smartphone was quantified by self-reported estimate. Additionally, data usage was quantified as a more objective indicator of phone use. Participants were required to record their mobile and WI-FI data usage and current usage period (Android users) or last reset (iPhone users) to allow quantification of daily use. A copy of participants’ spectacle prescription was obtained to verify refractive status.
418 students participated in the study, of which 142 were myopic. The mean (st dev) age of participants was 16.77 (4.4) years and the mean myopic prescription was -3.00 (1.80) dioptres. Average daily mobile phone time and data use was 265.16 (168.02) minutes and 800.37 (1299.88) MB respectively. Myopic students used almost double the amount of mobile phone data at 1130.71 (1748.14) MB per day compared to non-myopes at 613.63 (902.15) MB, which was statistically significantly different (P=0.001). Multinomial logistic regression revealed that myopic refractive error was significantly associated with increasing log mobile phone data usage (P=0.015) as well as increasing age (P=0.016). Social media applications requiring sustained visual interaction were the most commonly used (i.e. predominantly visual rather than audio based).
This is the first study to demonstrate an association between smartphone use and refractive error status. The cross-sectional nature of the study limits any causal inferences, but the findings are nevertheless intriguing. The current generation of children are the first to grow up in an era of smartphone dependency. Given the ocular health risks associated with myopia, our findings indicate that this relationship merits more detailed investigation.
This abstract was presented at the 2019 ARVO Annual Meeting, held in Vancouver, Canada, April 28 - May 2, 2019.
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