Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


Nearsightedness increases with level of education and longer schooling


Scientific study undertaken by the Mainz University Medical Center shows correlation between education and nearsightedness

Education and behavior have a greater impact on the development of nearsightedness than do genetic factors: With each school year completed, a person becomes more nearsighted. The higher the level of education completed, the more severe is the impairment of vision.

These are the conclusions drawn by researchers at the Department of Ophthalmology at the Mainz University Medical Center from the results of the first population-based cohort study of this condition. A nearsighted eye is one in which the eyeball is too long in relation to the refractive power of the cornea and lens. As a result, distant objects are displayed on the retina out of focus.

The eyeball continues to grow in humans until they reach adulthood and this means that myopia can also continue to progress in persons who have reached their 30s. It has been shown that both genetic predisposition as well as environmental stimuli play a role in the development of nearsightedness.

The team at the Department of Ophthalmology at the Mainz University Medical Center led by Professor Norbert Pfeiffer and PD Dr. Alireza Mirshahi found strong evidence that attaining a higher level of education and spending more years in school are two factors associated with a greater prevalence and severity of nearsightedness, or myopia.

The results of the ophthalmologic segment of the population-based Gutenberg Health Study (GHS) undertaken by the Mainz University Medical Center provides evidence that environmental factors may outweigh genetic factors in the development of myopia. A related article by the Mainz team has just been published in the American Academy of Ophthalmology's scientific journal, Ophthalmology.

Nearsightedness is widespread. However, it has become more prevalent around the world in recent years and presents a growing global health and economic concern. Severe myopia is a major cause of visual impairment and is closely associated with an increased risk of complications, such as retinal detachment, macular degeneration, premature cataracts, and glaucoma. Developed Asian countries report increasing myopia rates of up to 80 percent. The rapidity of this escalation suggested that environmental factors, for example near work such as reading, using a computer, and higher education, might play an important role.

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.

So what can be done to remedy this situation? It is not possible to 'cure' nearsightedness; it can only be corrected with visual aids or by surgical intervention designed to change refractive parameters. Attempts to slow the progression of myopia with drugs, special spectacles, or contact lenses have proven unsuccessful to date. Recent studies among children and young adults in Denmark and Asia showed that the risk for the development of myopia may be less with spending more time outdoors and, thus, by greater exposure to sunlight. Fifteen hours per week are advisable, while, at the same time, the eyes should not be used for close-up activities such as reading, watching TV, or using computers and smart phones for more than 30 hours per week. “Since students appear to be at a higher risk for nearsightedness, it makes sense to encourage them to spend more time outdoors as a precaution," said PD Dr. Alireza Mirshahi, lead author of the study.

The Gutenberg Health Study (GHS) is an interdisciplinary, population-based, prospective, monocenter cohort study, which has been conducted at the Mainz University Medical Center since 2007. Cardiovascular diseases, cancer, eye diseases, metabolic disorders as well as immune system and mental disorders are being investigated as part of the study. The goal of the study is to improve the individual risk prediction for these diseases. To this end, lifestyle, psychosocial factors, environment, clinical laboratory parameters, and the severity of any subclinical disorder are being taken into consideration.

A comprehensive biorepository is being developed so that molecular biological investigations can be conducted. During the baseline visit, 15,010 participants aged 35 to 74 years were invited to participate in a 5-hour examination program at the study center. This was followed by a computer-assisted telephone interview (CATI) using a standardized questionnaire and the assessment of diseases and health problems after 2.5 years. All endpoints will be subjected to extensive validation. In April 2012, a detailed follow-up examination of participants similar to the baseline examination was conducted at the center five years after their inclusion in the study. The aim is to continue to monitor the cohort and conduct further tests.

Further information: Mirshahi A. et al., Myopia and Level of Education: Results from the Gutenberg Health Study; Manuscript no. 2013-797. article in press

Professor Dr. Norbert Pfeiffer and PD Dr. Alireza Mirshahi
Department of Ophthalmology
Mainz University Medical Center
Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz
D 55131 Mainz, GERMANY
phone +49 6131 17-7085
fax +49 6131 17-6620

Press contact
Barbara Reinke
Press and Public Relations
Mainz University Medical Center
Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz
D 55131 Mainz, GERMANY
phone +49 6131 17-7428
fax +49 6131 17-3496

About the University Medical Center of Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz
The University Medical Center of Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz is the only facility of its kind in Rhineland-Palatinate. It consists of more than 60 clinics, institutes, and departments. Research and teaching are inextricably linked with medical treatment. Approximately 3,500 students of medicine and dentistry are trained in Mainz on a continuous basis. More information can be found at

Weitere Informationen: - press release ; - Gutenberg Health Study

Petra Giegerich | idw - Informationsdienst Wissenschaft

Further reports about: Health Ophthalmology cohort diseases disorders evidence factors graduates nearsightedness

More articles from Studies and Analyses:

nachricht Climate study finds evidence of global shift in the 1980s
26.11.2015 | Leibniz-Institut für Gewässerökologie und Binnenfischerei (IGB)

nachricht Network analysis shows systemic risk in mineral markets
16.11.2015 | International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA)

All articles from Studies and Analyses >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: How do Landslides control the weathering of rocks?

Chemical weathering in mountains depends on the process of erosion.

Chemical weathering of rocks over geological time scales is an important control on the stability of the climate. This weathering is, in turn, highly dependent...

Im Focus: How Cells in the Developing Ear ‘Practice’ Hearing

Before the fluid of the middle ear drains and sound waves penetrate for the first time, the inner ear cells of newborn rodents practice for their big debut. Researchers at Johns Hopkins report they have figured out the molecular chain of events that enables the cells to make “sounds” on their own, essentially “practicing” their ability to process sounds in the world around them.

The researchers, who describe their experiments in the Dec. 3 edition of the journal Cell, show how hair cells in the inner ear can be activated in the absence...

Im Focus: Climate study finds evidence of global shift in the 1980s

Planet Earth experienced a global climate shift in the late 1980s on an unprecedented scale, fuelled by anthropogenic warming and a volcanic eruption, according to new research published this week.

Scientists say that a major step change, or ‘regime shift’, in the Earth’s biophysical systems, from the upper atmosphere to the depths of the ocean and from...

Im Focus: Innovative Photovoltaics – from the Lab to the Façade

Fraunhofer ISE Demonstrates New Cell and Module Technologies on its Outer Building Façade

The Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems ISE has installed 70 photovoltaic modules on the outer façade of one of its lab buildings. The modules were...

Im Focus: Lactate for Brain Energy

Nerve cells cover their high energy demand with glucose and lactate. Scientists of the University of Zurich now provide new support for this. They show for the first time in the intact mouse brain evidence for an exchange of lactate between different brain cells. With this study they were able to confirm a 20-year old hypothesis.

In comparison to other organs, the human brain has the highest energy requirements. The supply of energy for nerve cells and the particular role of lactic acid...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Event News

Urbanisation and migration from rural areas challenging agriculture in Eastern Europe

30.11.2015 | Event News

Fraunhofer’s Urban Futures Conference: 2 days in the city of the future

25.11.2015 | Event News

Gluten oder nicht Gluten? Überempfindlichkeit auf Weizen kann unterschiedliche Ursachen haben

17.11.2015 | Event News

Latest News

UofL scientists identify critical pathway to improve muscle repair

01.12.2015 | Health and Medicine

IU chemists craft molecule that self-assembles into flower-shaped crystalline patterns

01.12.2015 | Life Sciences

Simulation shows key to building powerful magnetic fields

01.12.2015 | Physics and Astronomy

More VideoLinks >>>