By Marc Sorenson, EdD. For sun exposure…
It should be well-known by now, but the relationship between sun exposure and myopia (nearsightedness) is still being studied. And as before, the answer is the same: sun deprivation is associated to a greater myopia risk. The difference in this research was the study population, which was a random sample of participants 65 years and older from Europe. Among the factors that the researchers considered important, were vitamin D blood levels, vitamin D polymorphisms, ultraviolet B radiation (UVB), and years in education. Of these factors, only ultraviolet B radiation (UVB) was associated with reduced odds for myopia, especially if higher UVB exposure occurred during adolescence and early adulthood. This is another research paper that shows sun exposure to be protective against a disease, independent of vitamin D.
The authors of the study made this conclusion: “This study, while not designed to determine cause and effect relationships, suggests that increased ultraviolet B exposure, a marker of sunlight exposure, is associated with reduced myopia.
This is one in a long line of studies that show the relationship of sun exposure to myopia, and it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to determine that myopia is caused by lack of sun exposure. The evidence has been building for years. For example, one of the studies showed that the lowest risk of myopia among 12-year-old students was found among those who reported the highest levels of outdoor activity. Some might surmise that the key ingredient was exercise, but that idea was refuted by the fact that there was no association between indoor activity and myopia. Something besides exercise had to be leading to the lower risk of myopia among children who were actively outdoors; it had to be sun. The lower risk of myopia persisted after adjusting for genetic factors, ethnicity and the amount of near work. This is important, because for many years there was an assumption that long hours of study indoors, staring closely at books (near work) and never focusing on distant objects, led to myopia. This study belied that error.
This same research showed that the prevalence of myopia among Chinese children living in Singapore was 29.1%, whereas Chinese children living in Sydney, Australia, had a prevalence rate of only 3.3%. The children in Sydney spent about 13.8 hours per week outdoors compared to 3.05 hours in Singapore. In other words, the children who spent most or their lives indoors had 9.5 times the risk of developing myopia!
Depriving either adults or children of their time in the sunlight leads to myriad illnesses, only one of which is myopia. When will we learn?
 Katie M. Williams, FRCOphth; Graham C. G. Bentham, MA; Ian S. Young, MD; et al Association Between Myopia, Ultraviolet B Radiation Exposure, Serum Vitamin D Concentrations, and Genetic Polymorphisms in Vitamin D Metabolic Pathways in a Multicountry European Study. Published Online: December 1, 2016. doi:10.1001/jamaophthalmol.2016.4752
 Rose KA, Morgan IG, J, Kifley A, Huynh S, Smith W, Mitchell P. Outdoor activity reduces the prevalence of myopia in children. Ophthalmology 2008 Aug;115(8):1279-85.
By Marc Sorenson, EdD, Sunlight Institute…
Several scientific investigations have linked sunlight deprivation to nearsightedness (myopia), and many of these have been discussed on previous blogs. The latest used rhesus monkeys as subjects.[i] These monkeys were reared either with natural lighting for three hours daily or indoor lighting. As we might expect, those that were raised with indoor lighting developed myopia, whereas those raised with natural lighting did not develop the disorder. The eye dimensions became abnormal in the monkeys that were exposed only to indoor light, and problems with refraction, due to eye elongation, were noted.
There is no doubt that sun deprivation is a factor that leads to blindness. Others obviously feel the same way. Here I quote from Dr. Hobday, writing in Perspectives of Public Health: “A century ago, it was widely believed that high levels of daylight in classrooms could prevent myopia, and as such, education departments built schools with large windows to try to stop children from becoming short-sighted. This practice continued until the 1960s, from which time myopia was believed to be an inherited condition. In the years that followed, less emphasis was placed on preventing myopia. It has since become more common, reaching epidemic levels in East Asia. Recent research strongly suggests that the amount of light children get as they grow determines whether they will develop short sight; however, evidence that daylight in classrooms prevents myopia is lacking. Given the rapid increase in prevalence among school children worldwide, this should be investigated.”[ii]
Others are also concerned and state that eye elongation and progression of myopia decrease in periods with longer days and to increase in periods with shorter days.[iii] According to these researchers, “children should be encouraged to spend more time outside during daytime to prevent myopia.”
[i] Wang Y, Ding H, Stell WK, Liu L, Li S, Liu H, Zhong X. Exposure to sunlight reduces the risk of myopia in rhesus monkeys. PLoS One. 2015 Jun 1;10(6).
[ii] Hobday R. Myopia and daylight in schools: a neglected aspect of public health? Perspect Public Health 2015 Mar 23.
[iii] Cui D, Trier K, Munk Ribel-Madsen S. Effect of day length on eye growth, myopia progression, and change of corneal power in myopic children. Ophthalmology. 2013 May; 120(5):1074-9
You may not realize that sunlight is critical for good vision in children, but in my opinion, the science provides incontrovertible evidence. A new study has corroborated the findings of a number of earlier investigations.
The Daily Mail, a UK newspaper, reported that “Too much time indoors damages children’s eyes: Lack of natural sunlight thought to be driving up rates of short-sightedness among the young.[i]” They also mention that Chinese children are now being sent to schools with translucent walls to prevent the nearsightedness associated with lack of sunlight.
By: Marc Sorenson, Sunlight Institute–
Among the many other horrors associated with lack of sunlight, myopia (nearsightedness) is now becoming of scientific interest. In the latest article written on the subject, Robin Wuffson, MD, discusses the research from Denmark, showing that deterioration of the eye leading to myopia (in children aged 8-14) is more common in the winter than in the summer months.
Another piece of research, reported only a few months ago, showed that actual exposure of the eye to sunlight was protective against myopia in people aged 15 to 50 years. If you search this site, you will find several other posts on sunlight and myopia. In my opinion the link is now irrefutable: Lack of sunlight can now be added to the list of environmental and nutritional mistakes that can lead to blindness.
“Do not take my Sunshine Away!”
 Sherwin JC, Hewitt AW, Coroneo MT, Kearns LS, Griffiths LR, Mackey DA. The association between time outdoors and myopia. Invest Ophthalmol Vis Sci. 2012 Jul 1;53(8):4363-70.
Another in a line of studies on sunlight and myopia (near-sightedness) demonstrates that people who spend more time is the sun are less likely to have this pandemic vision problem. Other research on the relationship of sunlight exposure and myopia, some of it reported in my book, primarily considered the risk of myopia in children. This new investigation, however, surveyed young adults, and found that those who had the lowest exposure to sunlight were twice as likely to contract myopia.
Myopia is not an insignificant problem; when severe, it may lead to blindness. Obviously, we need to make sure that our eyes receive some sunlight regularly to help prevent this widespread disorder.
Evidence continues to accumulate that sunlight is necessary to normal growth and development of children’s eyes; without sunlight, myopia (nearsightedness) develops. It should be a priority for each family to assure that children leave their computers and video games behind for a few hours daily and play like normal children should–in the sunlight.