A new paper in the journal Ophthalmology is predicting that by 2050, 49.8% of the world’s population will be nearsighted. On top of that, another 9.8% will have high myopia, a more severe form of the condition that raises the risk of glaucoma, retinal detachment, and other eye complications. Yikes.
"It is not a small thing to make a prediction like this—when was the last time you heard a public health prediction that affects 50% of the world's population?" Kovin Naidoo, OD, PhD, a co-author of the study told the Huffington Post Australia. "This is a true global health crisis, and is rare in that whether you live in Africa or Australia, it will have a huge consequence," he said.
Why are experts projecting such a drastic rise? It comes down to two reasons, mainly: We're spending less time outdoors and more time doing "near-work activities," such as staring at computer screens and reading on our phones. The paper's authors noted that these trends are bound to continue as urbanization and development increase across the globe.
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Here in the U.S., nearsightedness has been on the rise for the last few decades. In 2009, a JAMA Ophthalmology study reported that between the early 1970s and early 2000s, the number of cases grew by 66%.
In light of the projections for 2050, Mark Jacquot, OD, a clinical director at LensCrafters, released a statement reminding us all to stay up to date with our eye care: "It is more important than ever to make comprehensive eye exams an indispensable component of routine healthcare,” he said.