Nearly two-thirds of Taiwanese children develop myopia before they finish elementary school, and more than a quarter of them are either overweight or obese, the Health Promotion Administration said, as it recommended more outdoor exercises to help children stay fit and maintain good eyesight.
The 2010 national survey on the prevalence of myopia among children found that 4.6 percent of kindergarteners aged four to five were nearsighted (equal to or greater than minus-0.5 diopters), with the prevalance rising to 7.1 percent among those aged five to six.
“The figure climbed to 18 percent when the survey respondents only involved first-grade students, and further jumped to 62 percent among sixth-graders,” agency deputy director Kung Hsien-lan (孔憲蘭) said.
The agency warned that the earlier the onset of myopia, the more severe it is likely to become later in life. Because a majority of Taiwanese children start to have problems with their vision at a fairly young age, many of them are highly susceptible to developing high-degree myopia (greater than minus-6.00 diopters) at a later age.
High-degree myopia can lead to cataracts at a young age, glaucoma, retinal detachment, macular hole, hemorrhage and degeneration or even blindness, the agency said.
Another survey on health and nutrition conducted in 2012 found that 28.6 percent of elementary-school students and 27.9 percent of junior-high school students were overweight or obese.
Studies on obesity suggest that there is a 50 percent chance of obese children becoming obese adults, and the probability rate is even higher for obese teenagers, who have a two-thirds chance of remaining obese as adults and developing chronic ailments such as cardiovascular diseases and diabetes, the agency said.
Lack of physical activity is related to obesity, as well as nearsightedness, the agency said, citing a previous survey which found that children who participated in few outdoor activities, stayed in front of television and computer screens longer and spent more time in cram schools, were more likely to develop myopia.
Parents and schools should make sure that children are getting enough outdoor exercise, it said, adding that the Ministry of Education recently said that every schoolchild should have at least a total 150 minutes of physical education in school.