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Invest Ophthalmol Vis Sci. 2008 Sep;49(9):3858-63. doi: 10.1167/iovs.07-1451. Epub 2008 May 9.

Myopia and the urban environment: findings in a sample of 12-year-old Australian school children.

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Centre for Vision Research, Department of Ophthalmology and the Westmead Millennium Institute, University of Sydney, Sydney, Australia.



To examine associations between myopia and measures of urbanization in a population-based sample of 12-year-old Australian children.


Questionnaire data on sociodemographic and environmental factors including ethnicity, parental education, and time spent in near work and outdoor activities were collected from 2367 children (75.0% response) and their parents. Population density data for the Sydney area were used to construct five urban regions. Myopia was defined as spherical equivalent refraction </= -0.50 D.


Myopia prevalence was lowest in the outer suburban region (6.9%) and highest in the inner city region (17.8%), with mean refraction tending toward greater myopia by region (outer suburban to inner city), after adjustment for age, sex, ethnicity, near work, outdoor activity, and parental myopia. Multivariate-adjusted analyses confirmed greater odds for myopia in regions of higher population density (P(trend) = 0.0001). Myopia was significantly more prevalent among children living in apartment residences than other housing types (chi(2) < 0.0001), after adjustment for ethnicity, near work, and outdoor activity. Housing density (measured as the number of houses visible from a front door) was not significantly associated with myopia (chi(2) = 0.1). For both European Caucasian and East Asian children, myopia was most prevalent in the inner city region (8.1% and 55.1%, for European Caucasian and East Asian, respectively).


The higher myopia prevalence in inner city-urban areas compared with outer suburban areas for this large childhood sample suggest that even moderate environmental differences within a predominantly urban setting may be associated with increased odds of myopia. These findings are consistent with previous reports of rural-urban differences in childhood myopia.

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