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Spending time in sun can prevent children becoming short-sighted

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Short-sightedness in Asia has reached record level, with around 90 per cent of school-leavers in Singapore need glasses. Research from Australia found that children should spend a minimum of two to three hours outside each day in direct sunlight to avoid becoming short-sighted.

Spending time in sun can prevent children becoming short-sighted

A lack of exposure to sunlight, rather than too much time spent in front of the television or playing computer games, has been found to damage children’s eyesight.

By Bonnie Malkin in Sydney 10:37AM GMT 06 Jan 2009

Research from Australia found that children should spend a minimum of two to three hours outside each day in direct sunlight to avoid becoming short-sighted.

The study, conducted by the Australia Research Council, contradicts the widely accepted belief that watching television, reading or playing computer games ruins vision. It also found no link between the flickering of television and computer screens and damaged eyesight.

Instead, the research found exposure to bright light can help regulate the eyeball’s growth in childhood, dramatically reducing the risk of myopia.

The study, carried out by researchers from the Australian National University and Sydney University, compared the eyesight of young Chinese Australians and Singaporeans. It found that 30 per cent of six-year-olds in Singapore need glasses, compared with 3 per cent of Chinese Australians.

Both groups spend the same amount of time playing video games, reading and watching television, but children in Singapore spend an average of 30 minutes each day outside, compared with two hours in Australia.

The figures were similar when contrasting children of Chinese descent from both nations, allowing researchers to eliminate ethnicity as a factor.

Short-sightedness is traditionally a problem among the highly educated who spend a lot of time indoors, lead researcher Professor Ian Morgan said.

“There’s a driver for people to become myopic and that’s education,” he said. “And there’s a brake on people becoming myopic and that’s people going outside.”

Mr Morgan said the research found playing video games had the same effect on vision as reading, using the computer had a “neutral” effect, and watching television had no affect at all. But he warned students in their twenties who spend a lot of time inside reading should be aware that their eyes needed exposure to natural light to stay healthy.

Short-sightedness in Asia has reached record level. Growing numbers of children in Hong Kong, Taiwan, Japan, Korea and China are struggling with their vision and around 90 per cent of school-leavers in Singapore need glasses.

“We were quite intrigued by this”, Mr Morgan said. “For a country that’s quite well educated we have a serious lack of myopia in Australia,” Morgan said.

The study is part of a long-term project on eyesight at the government-funded council.

Source: http://current.com/1j7h24c

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