The number of people affected by short-sightedness is increasing across Europe, with a study finding the problem to be nearly twice as common in those aged between 25 and 29 as from 55 to 59.
Research carried out by King’s College London found the condition, known as myopia, was found to be twice as common for those who went to university compare to those who left school earlier.
Experts suggest that a number of factors, such as more time spent indoors, an increase of computer use, and less outdoor play could explain the correlation.
Research by Ofcom reveals that a number of time young people in the UK spend online has tripled in the past 10 years, while across the population, time online has doubled.
People aged 16 to 24 now spend on average 27 hours and 36 minutes online each week.
Shared genetic factors underlying myopia and intelligence, and factors related to an educational opportunity such as socioeconomic status or maternal nutrition were also offered as potential reasons.
Myopia is the world’s most common eye condition worldwide, however, experts say that prevalence is “significantly increasing” in south-east Asia, Europe, Austrailia and the United States.
The study’s lead author, Katie Williams, of the department of ophthalmology at King’s College London, said: “We knew myopia was becoming more common in certain parts of the world – almost 8 in 10 young people are affected in urban East Asia – but it is very interesting to find that the same pattern is being seen here in Europe.”
The research found a high prevalence of the condition in those aged 25 to 29, at 47 per cent, compared to just 28 per cent in those aged 55 to 59.
Myopia generally develops during childhood and adolescence, causing blurred vision that has to be corrected by glasses, contact lenses or laser eye surgery.
Severe myopia additionally carries a risk of sight-threatening conditions such as retinal detachment, glaucoma and retinal degeneration.
The study’s authors suggested the increase could cause a strain on health services, while it also has implications for the economy if more people of working age are becoming visually impaired.
Professor Chris Hammond, of the department of ophthalmology at King’s College London, said: “More research is required to see if changing trends in childhood outdoor exposure, reading and educational practices are affecting myopia”
“While this study was on adults, we do not yet know the impact of the recent rapid rise in the use of computers, tablets and mobile phones on visual development in children.”
The research is published in the journal Ophthalmology.