It’s impossible to predict what the world will look by 2050. What might be a lock at that time is how half will see the world: in blurred vision.
Nearsightedness (myopia) rates have exploded; at the current rate, 50% of the world’s population will have it by 2050, according to research published in Ophthalmology.
Not only will half the world suffer from myopia, 10% will have high myopia, a severe form of nearsightedness that can lead to blindness. That equates to a sevenfold increase of people who incur permanent vision loss from high myopia from 2000 to 2050. It would vault myopia to top spot as the leading cause of permanent blindness worldwide.
Eyesight has been in a downward spiral for decades. A 2009 study compared two different time periods and their myopia rates – 1999 to 2004 and 1971 to 1972. The myopia rates are ridiculously higher in the ’99-’04 period (41%) than the other (25%).
It’s even worse in parts of Eastern Asia, where myopia rates have doubled, even tripled, over the last 40 years. Hong Kong, Singapore and Taiwan have myopia rates of around 80%. It reaches the pinnacle in South Korea though, where myopia affects over 96% of 20-year-olds in 2011, according to CNN.
Why is this happening? Well, no one has pinpointed an exact reason, but theories are aplenty.
The researchers of the study cited environmental factors as responsible: “…principally lifestyle changes resulting from a combination of decreased time outdoors and increased near work activities, among other factors.
“So-called high-pressure educational systems, especially at very young ages in countries such as Singapore, Korea, Taiwan and China, may be a causative lifestyle change, as may the excessive use of near electronic devices.”
They also proposed light levels as being a factor, which again relates to time spent outdoors. Past research has actually linked nearsightedness prevention to sunlight exposure, according to Wired. Sunlight triggers the release of dopamine, which can stop our eyes from ‘growing too long’, the cause of myopia.
So get away from the electronics, try to get some sunlight, and spend more time outside. Otherwise you’ll be stuck lining up for a new eyewear prescription, along with half the world.