Environmental factors are important in the development of myopia. There is still limited evidence as to whether computer use is a risk factor. The aim of this study is to investigate the association between computer use and myopia in the context of other near work activities. Within the birth cohort study Generation R, we studied 5074 children born in Rotterdam between 2002 and 2006. Refractive error and axial length was measured at ages 6 and 9. Information on computer use and outdoor exposure was obtained at age 3, 6 and 9 years using a questionnaire, and reading time and reading distance were assessed at age 9 years. Myopia prevalence (spherical equivalent ≤-0.5 dioptre) was 11.5% at 9 years. Mean computer use was associated with myopia at age 9 (OR = 1.005, 95% CI = 1.001-1.009), as was reading time and reading distance (OR = 1.031; 95% CI = 1.007-1.055 (5-10 h/wk); OR = 1.113; 95% CI = 1.073-1.155 (>10 h/wk) and OR = 1.072; 95% CI = 1.048-1.097 respectively). The combined effect of near work (computer use, reading time and reading distance) showed an increased odds ratio for myopia at age 9 (OR = 1.072; 95% CI = 1.047-1.098), while outdoor exposure showed a decreased odds ratio (OR = 0.996; 95% CI = 0.994-0.999) and the interaction term was significant (P = 0.036). From our results, we can conclude that within our sample of children, increased computer use is associated with myopia development. The effect of combined near work was decreased by outdoor exposure. The risks of digital devices on myopia and the protection by outdoor exposure should become widely known. Public campaigns are warranted.
Keywords: Child health; Epidemiology; Health behavior; Myopia; Public health; Refractive errors; Risk factors; Screen time.
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