Last updated at 13:47 BST, Tuesday, 08 May 2012

Sight problems for students in Asia

Summary

8 May 2012

Scientists say there's been a massive rise in levels of short sightedness among school leavers in Asia. Researchers writing in the journal, The Lancet, say that almost 90% of young adults are suffering from myopia.

Reporter:

Matt McGrath

Trying glasses

Scientists say that genetic factors are not as important as the environment.

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Report

The strong emphasis on educational achievement in China, Japan and other parts of South-East Asia may be coming at a heavy price. Researchers say that hard work at school plus the lack of exposure to outdoor light is damaging the eyes of almost 9 out of 10 students - with 1 in 5 at serious risk of visual impairment and blindness.

The scientists say that young people need up to 3 hours a day of outdoor light - but many infants are also missing out as they nap during the middle of the day. Dr. Ian Morgan is the lead author of the study:

I think what's happened in South-East Asia is we've got a double whammy. We've got the massive educational pressures and we've got the construction of a child's day in a way that really minimises the amount of time they spend outside in bright light.

The scientists say that genetic factors, long thought to play a big role in short sightedness, are not as important as the environment. They point to Singapore as a place with several distinct ethnic groups, all of whom are now suffering high levels of myopia.

The authors suggest that mandatory time outdoors should be considered by educational authorities across South-East Asia as a way of dealing with the problem.

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Vocabulary

emphasis

special importance

a heavy price

a high cost / a big loss

exposure

time spent being in contact with something

visual impairment

damaged sight

nap

short sleep

genetic

connected with genes (units in the cells of a living thing that control its physical characteristics)

a big role

a major cause

ethnic groups

people connected by different nationalities or race

myopia

short-sightedness

mandatory

compulsory

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