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Continuous Smartphone Use and Low Outdoor Exposure Increases Myopia Risk in Teens, Study Reveals

A study reveals that adolescents spend about 4 hours per day on their smartphones, and episodes of 20 minutes continuous use seem to lead to more myopic refractive errors, especially among those with low outdoor exposure.

Continuous Smartphone Use and Low Outdoor Exposure Increases Myopia Risk in Teens, Study Reveals
Photo: Smartphone Use in Teens | InStyleHealth

Utilizing a mobile application, experts assessed axial length and refractive error of the eyes of 525 adolescents with an average age of 13.7 years old, 54% were girls, in relation to their smartphone usage. The mobile app was designed to evaluate smartphone use, gauge face-to-face distance, and pose questions about outdoor exposure.

Participants has undergone cycloplegic refractive error and ocular biometry assessments. Average daily smartphone use was quantified as hours per day, with continuous use defined as the number of 20-minute episodes of screen viewing without breaks.

A myopia had a prevalence rate of 18.9%, during school days, the children spent a mean of 3.71 hours per day on their smartphone. A trend of correlation between the total smartphone use and the ratio of axial length (AL) and corneal radius (CR) but not spherical equivalent or SER.

The children had 6.42 episodes per day, on average, of continuous smartphone usage. Episodes, such as these, are significantly associated with both SER and AL/CR.

Correlations between continuous smartphone use and SER and AL/CR, in a stratified analysis for outdoor exposure, were seen only among teenagers with limited outdoor exposure.

However, smartphone usage during weekends revealed no significant correlation with SER and AL/CR, nor did face-to-screen distance.

Outcomes emphasize the significance of taking frequent breaks when using a smartphone, specifically among teenagers. To further explore safe screen use in youth, future large longitudinal studies are required.

Source: Ophthalmology 2021;doi:10.1016/j.ophtha.2021.06.016

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