The simple, free solution to Asia's myopia epidemic

Story highlights

  • East Asia sees soaring rates of myopia, with 80-90% of young adult population affected
  • Evidence that myopia rates are increasing in Europe and the U.S.
  • Scientists advice for kids: Go outside and play

Hong Kong (CNN)It's not just Asia. Around the world, we're becoming collectively more near-sighted.

Near-sightedness, or myopia, means nearby objects appear clearly, but those farther away look blurry.
    The rates of myopia have doubled, even tripled, in most of East Asia over the last 40 years, researchers say. Several places like Hong Kong, Singapore and Taiwan have rates in the 80%. In South Korea, myopia rates among 20-year-olds have leaped from 18% in 1955 to over 96% myopia in 2011.
    And it's a global issue -- rates of myopia are also rising in Western nations like Germany and the United States.
    "It's about 40% in the U.S., compared to about 25% in the 1970s," said Dr. Michael Chiang, clinical spokesperson for the American Academy of Ophthalmology.
    But researchers say reducing risk of myopia is easy, free and readily-available: Get some sunlight.
    Sometimes, though, the easiest solutions are the hardest to implement.

    It's not the obvious scapegoat

    The epidemic of myopia amongst East Asians has triggered cultural questions about why so many young people develop vision problems.
    Many have long believed that reading, studying or staring at your phone caused short-sightedness. And there's the usual grumblings that young people spend way too much time glued to their screens.
    But researchers