Progression of Myopia in School-Aged Children After COVID-19 Home Confinement
Jiaxing Wang, MD, PhD; Ying Li, MD, PhD; David C. Musch, PhD, MPH; et al
Tianjin Municipal Science and Technology Commission and m Tianjin Medical University Eye Hospital High-Level Innovative Talent Program for Distinguished Scholar
Time spent in outdoor activities has decreased owing to home confinement for the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic. Concerns have been raised about whether home confinement may have worsened the burden of myopia owing to substantially decreased time spent outdoors and increased screen time at home.
The objective of the study is to investigate the refractive changes and prevalence of myopia in school-aged children during the COVID-19 home confinement.
A prospective cross-sectional study using school-based photoscreenings in 123,535 children (64,335 [52.1%] were boys) aged 6 to 13 years from 10 elementary schools in Feicheng, China, was conducted. The study was performed during 6 consecutive years (2015-2020). Data were analyzed in July 2020.
A total of 194,904 test results (389,808 eyes) were included in the analysis. A substantial myopic shift (approximately −0.3 diopters [D]) was found in the 2020 school-based photoscreenings compared with previous years (2015-2019) for younger children aged 6 (−0.32 D), 7 (−0.28 D), and 8 (−0.29 D) years.
The prevalence of myopia in the 2020 photoscreenings was higher than the highest prevalence of myopia within 2015-2019 for children aged 6 (21.5% vs 5.7%), 7 (26.2% vs 16.2%), and 8 (37.2% vs 27.7%) years.
The differences in spherical equivalent refraction and the prevalence of myopia between 2020 and previous years were minimal in children aged 9 to 13 years.
Home confinement during the COVID-19 pandemic appeared to be associated with a significant myopic shift for children aged 6 to 8 years according to 2020 school-based photoscreenings.
However, numerous limitations warrant caution in the interpretation of these associations, including use of noncycloplegic refractions and lack of orthokeratology history or ocular biometry data.
Younger children’s refractive status may be more sensitive to environmental changes than older ages, given the younger children are in a critical period for the development of myopia.