Physical Activity Spaces Not Effective against Socioeconomic Inequalities in Myopia Incidence: The Generation R Study

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SIGNIFICANCE: Our findings show that non-Dutch background, lower maternal education, and lower net household income level may be new risk factors for myopia development in the Netherlands. Newly introduced physical activity spaces may not be effective enough in increasing outdoor exposure in children to reduce eye growth.

PURPOSE: The aims of this study were to evaluate socioeconomic inequalities in myopia incidence, eye growth, outdoor exposure, and computer use and to investigate if newly introduced physical activity spaces can reduce eye growth in school-aged children.

METHODS: Participants (N = 2643) from the Dutch population-based birth cohort Generation R were examined at ages 6 and 9 years. Socioeconomic inequalities in myopia incidence, eye growth, and lifestyle were determined using regression analyses. Information on physical activity spaces located in Rotterdam was obtained. Differences in eye growth between those who became exposed to new physical activity spaces (n = 230) and those nonexposed (n = 1866) were evaluated with individual-level fixed-effects models.

RESULTS: Myopia prevalence was 2.2% at age 6 years and 12.2% at age 9 years. Outdoor exposure was 11.4 h/wk at age 6 years and 7.4 h/wk at age 9 years. Computer use was 2.1 h/wk at age 6 years and 5.2 h/wk at age 9 years. Myopia incidence was higher in children with non-Dutch background, and families with lower household income and lower maternal education (odds ratio [OR], 1.081 [95% confidence interval, 1.052 to 1.112]; OR, 1.035 [95% confidence interval, 1.008 to 1.063]; OR, 1.028 [95% confidence interval, 1.001 to 1.055], respectively). Children living <600 m of a physical activity space did not have increased outdoor exposure, except those from families with lower maternal education (β = 1.33 h/wk; 95% confidence interval, 0.15 to 2.51 h/wk). Newly introduced physical activity spaces were not associated with reduction of eye growth.

CONCLUSIONS: Children from socioeconomically disadvantaged families became more often myopic than those from socioeconomically advantaged families. We did not find evidence that physical activity spaces protect against myopia for the population at large, but subgroups may benefit.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1371-1378
Number of pages8
JournalOptometry and Vision Science
Issue number12
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
ODAS Stichting (2017-04; to CCWK); Oogfonds (2016-23; to CCWK); Uitzicht (Oogfonds, Maculafonds, LSBS; 2017-28; to CCWK); Nederlandse Organisatie voor Wetenschappelijk Onderzoek (91815655; to CCWK); and H2020 European Research Council (648268; to CCWK).

Publisher Copyright:
Copyright © 2021 The Author(s). Published by Wolters Kluwer Health, Inc. on behalf of the American Academy of Optometry. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-Non Commercial-No Derivatives License 4.0 (CCBY-NC-ND), where it is permissible to download and share the work provided it is properly cited. The work cannot be changed in any way or used commercially without permission from the journal.


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