The Asia-Pacific Journal of Ophthalmology

Asia-Pacific Journal of Ophthalmology:

Issue 6, November/December 2016 Review Article

Environmental Factors and Myopia: Paradoxes and Prospects for Prevention

Rose, Kathryn Ailsa; French, Amanda Nicole; Morgan, Ian George

Author Information

From the *Discipline of Orthoptics, Graduate School of Health, University of Technology Sydney, Ultimo, New South Wales; †Research School of Biology, Australian National University, Canberra, Australian Capital Territory, Australia; and ‡State Key Laboratory of Ophthalmology and Division of Preventive Ophthalmology, Zhongshan Ophthalmic Center, Sun Yat-Sen University, Guangzhou, China. 

Reprints: Ian George Morgan, PhD, Research School of Biology, Australian National University, Canberra, Australia. E‐mail:


The prevalence of myopia in developed countries in East and Southeast Asia has increased to more than 80% in children completing schooling, whereas that of high myopia has increased to 10%–20%. This poses significant challenges for correction of refractive errors and the management of pathological high myopia. Prevention is therefore an important priority. Myopia is etiologically heterogeneous, with a low level of myopia of clearly genetic origins that appears without exposure to risk factors. The big increases have occurred in school myopia, driven by increasing educational pressures in combination with limited amounts of time spent outdoors. The rise in prevalence of high myopia has an unusual pattern of development, with increases in prevalence first appearing at approximately age 11. This pattern suggests that the increasing prevalence of high myopia is because of progression of myopia in children who became myopic at approximately age 6 or 7 because age-specific progression rates typical of East Asia will take these children to the threshold for high myopia in 5 to 6 years. This high myopia seems to be acquired, having an association with educational parameters, whereas high myopia in previous generations tended to be genetic in origin. Increased time outdoors can counter the effects of increased nearwork and reduce the impact of parental myopia, reducing the onset of myopia, and this approach has been validated in 3 randomized controlled trials. Other proposed risk factors need further work to demonstrate that they are independent and can be modified to reduce the onset of myopia.

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