Background and purpose: A nationwide survey was performed in 2000 to determine the prevalence and severity of myopia among schoolchildren in Taiwan and to compare these findings with the results of the last survey performed in 1995.
Methods: We first divided the whole island into regions according to developmental grade scores and then sampled with the probability proportional to the size of the population within each stratum. A total of 10,889 students were enrolled, including 5,664 boys and 5,225 girls, with ages ranging from 7 to 18 years. The refractive status and corneal radius of each student were measured with an autorefractometer under cycloplegia and checked with retinoscopy. Axial length was measured using biometric ultrasound.
Results: The myopia rate increased from 20% at 7 years, to 61% at 12 years, and 81% at 15 years. A myopic rate of 84% was found for schoolchildren aged 16 years through 18 years. The mean refractive index reached myopic status at the age of 8, and increased to -4.12 D in girls and -3.15 D in boys at the age of 18 years. The prevalence of high myopia (> -6.0 D) at the age of 18 years was 24% in girls and 18% in boys. The increase in axial length corresponded with the progression of myopia. The anterior chamber depth was slightly deeper from 7 years to 13 years and then remained stable. The lens thickness decreased from 7 years to 11 years. After age 15, further thickening of the lens was correlated with both age and severity of myopia. However, the corneal curvature was not related to age or severity of myopia. Girls had a higher prevalence and more severe degree of myopia than boys. Children in urban areas had a higher prevalence and more severe degree of myopia than children in rural areas.
Conclusion: The prevalence and severity of myopia in schoolchildren in Taiwan in 2000 increased compared to 1995, with the most severe increases occurring in younger age groups. Thus, preventing schoolchildren developing myopia at a young age may slow down the increase in severity of myopia in Taiwan.