Lockdown vision problems: The link between lockdowns & lower vision outcomes
Lockdown vision problems may seem like only a minor facet of the many wide-reaching implications the sustained closing of the country has had. However, there is growing evidence to suggest that quarantine-related vision disorders are on the rise.
Schools in the UK opened again on 08/03/21; since students have been returning to classrooms, there are worries there could be a marked increase in the number who are suffering from some form of visual impairment. This is in part due to the increased reliance on screens over lockdowns.
Lockdown – love or loathe, the evidence is there
Over a year ago now, the UK announced its first set of coronavirus restrictions. And yet… still, a year on, the complete impact of pandemic restrictions are still the subject of heated discussion.
Nonetheless, the evidence for lockdown vision problems is there. More than 120,000 chinese schoolchildren were the subject of a recent study. The results?
Compare them to children of the same age in prior years, and they are 3 times more likely to be diagnosed with shortsightedness (read more about this study here.)
Adding to this, almost a quarter of the population reported that their vision had declined over the course of the first lockdown – this has now increased to roughly 38% (read more here).
This could prove to be an especially worrying trend if there are to be further government restrictions in the future.
We talked, in earlier posts, about the prevalence of undiagnosed vision problems in the classroom, and some of the signs you can look out for in your students.
Now, students and teachers alike are adjusting to being back in the classroom in the post-COVID world. In this crucial time, we want to find out – what exactly is causing lockdown vision problems?
Argument by design: a historical precedent for vision screening
Regular breaks are an important part of keeping your eyes healthy. Studies establish this as a well known fact.
This is especially true when you are younger, and your eyes are still developing.
Unfortunately, over the course of quarantine, this has been forgotten and forgone in the interests of public health. This is the root cause of the rise in lockdown vision problems.
Here’s the truth: human eyes are simply not designed to view things up close for sustained periods.
Our ancient ancestors hunted outside all day. Our slightly-less ancient ancestors were subsistence farmers, who, again, farmed outside all day.
With the exception of the select few who could read and write, we have never relied on near-vision to this degree before.
The expectation for the general public to read, and work, up close, is only recent. This places a large percentage of the population at greater risk of developing myopia or other vision disorders.
Further still, over the course of quarantine, reliance on screens has increased. People can no longer leave their homes for leisure, so watch and play more on their digital devices. Adding to this, children in lockdown don’t have the option of sitting at the back of the classroom and watching the whiteboard. So, their exposure to near-work has undoubtedly increased.
Moving forwards – how can we protect against lockdown vision problems?
We are yet to ascertain the extent of damage caused by what is being dubbed ‘quarantine myopia’. Regardless, it raises a number of important questions. How do we counteract lockdown eye strain? To what degree are COVID vision problems going to define a generation? Are there any steps we can take to avoid wide-spread digital eye strain in the future?
Keep your eyes peeled for the next installment in this series, ‘Quarantine Myopia: the unseen pandemic that is closer than you think’.
We will discuss exactly what is causing such a marked increase in lockdown vision problems, and the ways in which you can minimise the damage – for both you and your students.