The influence of the environment and lifestyle on myopia

Sayantan Biswas, Antonio El Kareh, Mariyem Qureshi, Deborah Mei Xuan Lee, Chen-Hsin Sun, Janice S.H. Lam, Seang-Mei Saw, Raymond P. Najjar*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Background: Myopia, commonly known as near-sightedness, has emerged as a global epidemic, impacting almost one in three individuals across the world. The increasing prevalence of myopia during early childhood has heightened the risk of developing high myopia and related sight-threatening eye conditions in adulthood. This surge in myopia rates, occurring within a relatively stable genetic framework, underscores the profound influence of environmental and lifestyle factors on this condition. In this comprehensive narrative review, we shed light on both established and potential environmental and lifestyle contributors that affect the development and progression of myopia. Main body: Epidemiological and interventional research has consistently revealed a compelling connection between increased outdoor time and a decreased risk of myopia in children. This protective effect may primarily be attributed to exposure to the characteristics of natural light (i.e., sunlight) and the release of retinal dopamine. Conversely, irrespective of outdoor time, excessive engagement in near work can further worsen the onset of myopia. While the exact mechanisms behind this exacerbation are not fully comprehended, it appears to involve shifts in relative peripheral refraction, the overstimulation of accommodation, or a complex interplay of these factors, leading to issues like retinal image defocus, blur, and chromatic aberration. Other potential factors like the spatial frequency of the visual environment, circadian rhythm, sleep, nutrition, smoking, socio-economic status, and education have debatable independent influences on myopia development. Conclusion: The environment exerts a significant influence on the development and progression of myopia. Improving the modifiable key environmental predictors like time spent outdoors and engagement in near work can prevent or slow the progression of myopia. The intricate connections between lifestyle and environmental factors often obscure research findings, making it challenging to disentangle their individual effects. This complexity underscores the necessity for prospective studies that employ objective assessments, such as quantifying light exposure and near work, among others. These studies are crucial for gaining a more comprehensive understanding of how various environmental factors can be modified to prevent or slow the progression of myopia.
Original languageEnglish
Article number7
Pages (from-to)7
JournalJournal of Physiological Anthropology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 31 Jan 2024

Bibliographical note

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  • Progression
  • Emmetropization
  • Etiology
  • Outdoor time
  • Light
  • Genetics
  • Epidemiology
  • Risk factors
  • Environment
  • Myopia
  • Refraction, Ocular
  • Prospective Studies
  • Humans
  • Child, Preschool
  • Myopia/epidemiology
  • Accommodation, Ocular
  • Circadian Rhythm
  • Child


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