The myopia epidemic!

By Razib Khan | December 17, 2009 10:10 pm

Increased Prevalence of Myopia in the United States Between 1971-1972 and 1999-2004:

Using the 1971-1972 method, the estimated prevalence of myopia in persons aged 12 to 54 years was significantly higher in 1999-2004 than in 1971-1972 (41.6% vs 25.0%, respectively; P < .001). Prevalence estimates were higher in 1999-2004 than in 1971-1972 for black individuals (33.5% vs 13.0%, respectively; P < .001) and white individuals (43.0% vs 26.3%, respectively; P -2.0 diopters [D]: 17.5% vs 13.4%, respectively [P -7.9 D: 22.4% vs 11.4%, respectively [P < .001]; -7.9 D: 1.6% vs 0.2%, respectively [P < .001]).
When using similar methods for each period, the prevalence of myopia in the United States appears to be substantially higher in 1999-2004 than 30 years earlier. Identifying modifiable risk factors for myopia could lead to the development of cost-effective interventional strategies.

Here are some tables:

Citation: Susan Vitale; Robert D. Sperduto; Frederick L. Ferris, III, Increased Prevalence of Myopia in the United States Between 1971-1972 and 1999-2004, Arch Ophthalmol. 2009;127(12):1632-1639.

  • Monado

    I’m not claiming causation, but I have read that myopia in children is commoner the more light they have in their bedrooms at night.

  • Lassi Hippeläinen

    @Monado: it has been observed that myopia is more common in children that do not spend time outdoors. The more light there is, the less myopic the children will be.

  • Tristram Brelstaff

    Monado: from the Wikipedia page on myopia:

    Although one initial study indicated a strong association between myopia and nightlight exposure, recent research has found none.

    It also gives several references.

  • ziel

    Collateral damage from the Flynn Effect?

  • nate

    Myopia is associated with high insulin levels, so this makes sense.

  • Blackbird

    The New Scientist run an interesting article about the causes behind myopia a few weeks ago. They reported some compelling very recent research which found a strong negative association between hours spent playing outdoors and myopia.

  • red rabbit

    I wonder how much of this (like the autism “epidemic”) is down to detection.
    I’m severely myopic and knew it from a young age. However, in my rural community, there was no education for parents on vision care. I got my first pair of glasses at age 16, when I was old enough to sort it out for myself.
    Parents these days seem to be better informed and vision care is much more available- even in such rural areas.

  • Steve Sailer

    This would be a case where it might be more useful to use the myopia records at a single school. Take a small town elementary school where the population has been relatively stable over time and see whether myopia has gone up. Then repeat at a few other schools.


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About Razib Khan

I have degrees in biology and biochemistry, a passion for genetics, history, and philosophy, and shrimp is my favorite food. In relation to nationality I'm a American Northwesterner, in politics I'm a reactionary, and as for religion I have none (I'm an atheist). If you want to know more, see the links at


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