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Being indoors can impact upon children's eyesight

3rd August 2012

Children who are allowed to play outside are less likely to be short-sighted, according to new research.

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A study conducted by academics at Bristol University has found that children who regularly played outdoors when they were eight and nine were almost half as likely to be short-sighted by the age of 15 as those who stayed inside.

The work carried out by Dr Cathy Williams and colleagues at Bristol’s School of Social and Community Medicine, as well as researchers from Cardiff University, is the first to establish a direct link between poor eyesight and not spending enough time outside.

The findings were determined from following 14,000 youngsters who were part of the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children with their parents asked how long they spent outside each day.

It remains unclear why simply being outside appears to protect against short-sightedness but Jeremy Guggenheim from Cardiff University said there was growing evidence that daily exposure to bright light was necessary to develop and maintain good vision.

This could be linked to light stimulating levels of dopamine in the retina, which is a neurotransmitter.

Consultant ophthalmologist Dr Williams said: “We’re still not sure why being outdoors is good for children’s eyes, but given the other health benefits that we know about we would encourage children to spend plenty of time outside, although of course parents will still need to follow advice regarding UV exposure.”

However, she said there was a need to carry out further studies investigating how much time outside is needed to protect against short-sightedness.

 

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