Millions of children are at risk of long-term eye damage because they’re failing to spend enough time outside in natural light, a leading expert has warned.
David Allamby, an ophthalmologist and director of London’s Focus Clinic, claims a lack of sunlight is leaving youngsters at risk of short-sightedness.
Soaking up sun prevents the condition, meaning those who stay indoors playing on their phones risk myopia – which can eventually cause blindness.
His warning comes days after shocking data published by the Office for National Statistics, which revealed children spend just 16 minutes outdoors each day.
Allamby advised parents should ensure their screen-addicted children spend at least 90 minutes outside each day to keep their vision healthy.
Speaking exclusively to MailOnline, he said the latest ONS figures “paint a worrying picture” amid fears soaring numbers of children are at risk of vision loss.
Allamby said: “Action is needed now – children must be encouraged to put down their mobile devices and get outside and play.
‘The figures add to a growing catalogue of evidence which clearly demonstrates a rise in short-sightedness linked to too much time indoors.”
How does a lack of sunlight lead to myopia? A lack of sunlight can lead to myopia, various medical studies have concluded over the years.
Experts believe exposure to light can prevent the condition, which can eventually lead to blindness.
Dopamine is produced in the eye in response to sunlight, and acts in the retina as a neurotransmitter.
This helps different cells talk to each other, deciding how the eye develops.
In particular, dopamine is a vital aspect in how the eye grows, and if it develops a refractive error requiring the use of glasses. It affects the size of the eye, and the length of the eye is the important determining factor in how the eye focuses light and what the prescription of the eye will be.
“This generation have double the amount of short-sightedness than their parents or grandparents did, and high degrees of myopia is a potentially blinding condition.”
However, Mr Allamby added that getting children outside for 90 minutes a day ‘dramatically’ lowers their risk.
He said: “Worryingly, children are now simply spending much more time indoors than in previous generations.
“An addiction to mobile phones and lit screen technology among the young indicates that the numbers suffering eye sight problems is only going to get worse.
“Many parts of the world are seeing an explosion in myopia in children, and sadly statistics show this country is following suit.”
The ONS statistics, which were the first of their kind, were based on data collected between April 2014 to December 2015.
Children completed time diaries on two days in each week, one on a weekday and the other on a Saturday or Sunday.
The figures showed 14 and 15 year olds were the worst offenders, spending just 10 minutes each day outside, on average.
Statisticians were unable to compare the data to previous years, because it was the first time the ONS had collected such figures.
However, a National Trust study in 2016 suggested parents spent almost double the time outdoors when growing up, compared to their children.
How many people are expected to become short-sighted?
Half of the world’s population is expected to be short-sighted in 30 years, because youngsters are spending less time in natural light.
Allamby said myopia can also progress to sight-threatening diseases, such as retinal detachment or glaucoma.
How long do children spend outside each day? Office for National Statistics figures last week revealed that English and Welsh children spend just 16 minutes outdoors each day.
The Guardian News