Children’s eye issues a case of lifestyle over family history


Aussie parents are being encouraged to have their kids’ eyes tested before the school year regardless of their medical or family history amidst research suggesting genetics explain just 10 per cent of childhood short-sightedness, with 90 per cent attributed to environment and lifestyle factors[1].

The boom in childhood screen time which increased by 83 minutes a day during the COVID-19 pandemic[1] has meant less time spent outdoors exposed to natural light. Emerging research suggests this may have contributed to an 11 per cent increase in the number of Australian children who have been clinically diagnosed with myopia since 2018 (26% v 15%[2]), these figures are particularly alarming given almost 1 in 3 school-aged children in Australia have never had their eyes tested[3].

In addition to encouraging more time outdoors in bright light [4], Bupa Optical Optometrist Karen Makin says eye tests are an essential part of a child’s regular health checks and should commence before they start school for the first time.

“It’s important parents don’t just assume their children’s eyesight will be strong because they never complain or due to a family history of 20/20 vision. Every eye is unique with a plethora of factors such as exposure to outdoor time, screentime and reading habits playing a part along with clinical predispositions.

Regular eye tests are the best way a parent can ensure that there are no issues such as myopia that may affect a child’s learning.

Karen Makin, Bupa Optical Optometrist

Annual eye tests throughout childhood can also help track any changes or emerging problems as they grow older and help address issues early so their learning and development is not unduly impacted by eye issues.

“When a child’s eyesight is compromised, they will often get tired faster, develop watery eyes or struggle to maintain concentration… all factors that can stop a child from reaching their full potential academically and socially.”

“Eye tests can be done quickly, are bulk-billed for Medicare card holders[1] and don’t require a GP’s referral. All-in-all, much faster and cheaper than the annual trip to the school uniform shop!” Karen said.

Bupa Optical offer children’s frames to suit different budget and styles with some options being 100% gap-free for eligible private health insurance policy holders[2].

Visit your local Bupa Optical store to book an eye test or visit here.

[1] Primary-age children’s screen time went up by 83 minutes a day during pandemic – study | Children | The Guardian

[2] Reducing-the-Risk-to-Vision_Myopia-Report-202223.pdf (optometry.org.au)

[3] Reducing-the-Risk-to-Vision_Myopia-Report-202223.pdf (optometry.org.au)

[4] Managing childhood myopia - Good Vision For Life