Is This Article Harming Your Eyes?

Short-sightedness among young people is on the rise across Europe, a study has found, and the culprit might be the screen you're looking at right now.

by Joel Golby
13 May 2015, 2:30pm

Photo via Mo Riza

This article originally appeared on VICE UK.

Short-sightedness among groovy young people is on the rise across Europe , according to a new meta-analysis from the European Eye Epidemiology Consortium (EEEC). And, worse, technology could be to blame, meaning—and don't freak out—that every single one of these words you are reading here on your computer or your phone or your tablet is currently hurting your eyes.

Zoom out. Think about your eyes. These words are hurting them. You're on your death bed, blind as a bat, swinging around in the darkness as your family sobs around you, sad wet faces that you have never seen. "My... one... regret," you are saying—you are short of breath, now, as the tiny glimmer of life you once held eases slowly out of your body—my... one... regret... is... I read... too many... VICE... articles... by... noted shitshow... Joel... Golby... and... then... went... hella... bliiiiiiiind." That's you, dying, there. The nurse closes your eyelids as the final beep of the heart monitor spools out, but it's pointless. They haven't seen anything for years. Just stumps. Moist black lumps of clotted jelly, rolling around in their dead sockets.

Anyway, back to the going-short-sighted thing. Because, as the Kings College London study confirmed, a quarter or so of the general population in Europe is short-sighted, but that number rises in young adults—almost half (47 percent) of those between the ages of 25 and 29 have been diagnosed with some strain of near-sightedness. Which is bad, isn't it? The youth are meant to rise up. How are we meant to stage a bloody revolution if we're faffing about in a public toilet with a tiny beaker of contact lens solution, desperately buffing stains off our glasses with an old T-shirt? We can't. The guns will lace through our blind and unprepared bodies like hot knives through butter.

"We knew myopia was becoming more common in certain parts of the world—almost eight in ten young people are affected in urban East Asia—but it is very interesting to find that the same pattern is being seen here in Europe," lead study author Katie Williams said.

The study also found a link between short-sightedness and higher education, finding myopia to be twice as prevalent among those who went on to HE studies than those who left school at 16, so yes: Science just proved that nerds wear glasses. It's not clear what the defining factor is in that correlation, but sitting indoors all day reading books in gloomy libraries (or, more likely, staying up late and copying and pasting your dissertation from various Google Books quotes on a high-contrast laptop screen) has been identified as one among many potential reasons.

So why are young people blinder than the general population? Well, there's a chance that formative years spent staring dully at technology could do it. Squinting at junk pictures on our Snapchats and our Facebooks and our iPads and our selfies, you know. Doing our tweets that we do. FarmVille, all that. Imagine if it turns out FarmVille degraded your eyes every single second you played it. What a shit way to go blind.

"We do not fully understand the reasons for this shift, given that this study shows the rising levels of education are not solely to blame," study co-author and ophthalmology professor Chris Hammond added. "More research is required to see if changing trends in childhood outdoor exposure, reading, and educational practices are affecting myopia development.

"While this study was on adults, we do not yet know the impact of the recent rapid rise in use of computers, tablets, and mobile phones on visual development in children," he said. But what is for sure is staring at a computer all day and then your phone on the way home and then a one-two combination of your phone and a TV when you get there is a sure recipe for eye-strain, dry eye, and exacerbated pre-existing eye conditions.

Anyway, it requires more research, so this is going to change precisely nobody's day-to-day behavior, but just think: Next time you roll over in bed and check Facebook before you've even had a piss yet, maybe you're going blinder. Next time you screenshot someone's Instagram and post and zoom in on it to see if you can detect a faint soft outline of their junk: Your eyes are possibly dying . Every time you flick your eyes away from the Eurovision Song Contest back to the hashtag for the Eurovision Song Contest and then back again to the Eurovision Song Contest, just think: Every joke about these Romanian popstars is slowly depleting your organs . Anyway, happy Wednesday!

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