FRIDAY, June 27, 2014 (HealthDay News) -- Higher levels of education are associated with a greater risk for nearsightedness, according to new research.
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People who are nearsighted have trouble seeing things in the distance.
The researchers said this is the first population-based study to suggest that environmental factors may be more important than genetics in the development of nearsightedness, formally known as myopia.
For the study, the researchers looked at more than 4,600 Germans, ages 35 to 74, and found that 24 percent of those who had not completed high school were nearsighted, compared with 35 percent of high school and vocational school graduates, and 53 percent of college graduates.
The researchers at the University Medical Center in Mainz, Germany, also found that people who spent more years in school had worse nearsightedness, with the severity increasing for each year of schooling.
The investigators also assessed the effect of genetics on nearsightedness, but concluded that it had much less impact on the severity of nearsightedness than education level, according to the study published online June 26 in the journal Ophthalmology.
The findings suggest, but don't prove, a link between nearsightedness and level of education.
The findings also suggest that one way to reverse rising rates of nearsightedness worldwide could be to encourage young people to go outside more often, the researchers said. They noted that research involving children and young adults in Asia and Denmark showed that more time outdoors is associated with less nearsightedness.
"Since students appear to be at a higher risk of nearsightedness, it makes sense to encourage them to spend more time outdoors as a precaution," study lead author Dr. Alireza Mirshahi said in a journal news release.
Nearsightedness affects about 42 percent of Americans, while the rate is up to 80 percent in developed Asian nations, according to the news release.
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SOURCE: Ophthalmology, news release, June 26, 2014