Sunshine for Children’s Eyes

Nearsighted people have what is called myopia. They need glasses to clearly see across the room or to see objects in the distance. Some people opt for Lasik eye surgery which largely corrects myopia by changing the surface curvature of the cornea.

Kids playing in sunshine.

An article in the December, 2009 issue of the Archives of Ophthalmology reported that the prevalence of myopia in the United States has increased dramatically over the past 20 years. In a 1971-72 survey of persons 12-54 years of age, 25% suffered from myopia. In a similar 1999-2004 survey the prevalence of myopia had increased some 60% to 41.6% in the same age group.

Heredity plays a role in myopia. Having two nearsighted parents and participating in relatively little outdoor activity will result in a 60% chance of developing myopia by the eighth grade. If children with the same myopic parents played outdoors in the sunshine for an average of 14 hours per week, (2 hours per day) the likelihood of becoming nearsighted is reduced to only 20%.

A careful analysis of the data revealed that myopia was not due to spending a lot of time reading and other close-up activities such as playing computer games. It is time outdoors playing in the sunshine that makes the difference. Researchers are now studying just how outdoor light changes the way the eye grows.

Over 100 years ago, Ellen G. White advocated that children should play much in the outdoors. She did not know then that one of the benefits would be better eyesight.

“Dress your children neatly in simple clothing, and allow them to spend much time out-of-doors. …By playing in the sunshine and the fresh air, children will gain health and strength of mind and body. They will be benefited both spiritually and physically.” The Bible Echo, February 23, 1903.