Can Education Make You Nearsighted?

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Education isn’t physically comfortable. It wouldn’t be surprising if all those hours crammed into a classroom or hunched over a desk ended up leaving a physical mark. A new study from the Mainz University Medical Center in Germany argues that nearsightedness is one of the symptoms of a comprehensive education: The more educated you are, the more likely you are to be nearsighted, and the worse that nearsightedness is likely to be.

To the press release:

To analyze the correlation between myopia development and education, researchers at the Mainz University Medical Center examined nearsightedness in 4,658 Germans aged 35 to 74, excluding anyone with cataracts or who had undergone refractive surgery. This research was undertaken as part of the Gutenberg Health Study and the results demonstrate that myopia becomes more prevalent with a higher level of education. Only 24 percent of the nearsighted subjects had no high school education or other training, while 35 percent of high school graduates and vocational school graduates were nearsighted. In contrast, no less than 53 percent of university graduates were nearsighted.

In addition to education levels completed, the Mainz-based researchers also found that people who spent more years in school proved to be more myopic, with nearsightedness worsening for each year of school. Furthermore, the researchers looked at the effects of 45 genetic markers, but found that these have a much lower impact on the severity of nearsightedness compared to the level of education achieved.

As for ways to counteract these effects, the researchers offer up two options: one, get more sunlight, which has been shown in other studies to help slow the effects of myopia. Second, and much, much, much less realistic: Spend less than 30 hours a week using your eyes for “close-up activities” like reading or fixating on a screen. Not gonna happen, ressarchers.