National / Science & Health

In the age of smartphones, Japanese schoolchildren's eyesight is worst on record, health ministry finds

JIJI

From elementary to high school, children in Japan are breaking records for bad eyesight, an education ministry health survey showed Friday.

According to the survey results, children with uncorrected vision of less than 1.0 on the Japanese acuity scale account for 34.6 percent of elementary school students, 57.5 percent of junior high school students and 67.6 percent of high school students — all record highs.

A score of 1.0 is equivalent to 20/20 vision.

“Looking at smartphone screens at close distances and reading books may be having some effects” on children’s eyesight, the ministry said.

The preliminary figures came from samples collected from the results of medical checkups nationwide for children between 5 and 17 from April to June. A more detailed investigation covering several thousand students will be conducted for the first time in fiscal 2020.

The fiscal 2019 survey also found record high ratios of nasal or paranasal sinus conditions, such as allergic rhinitis, in 12.1 percent of junior high students and 9.9 percent of high school students.

The share of high schoolers with ear problems aside from hearing impairments also hit a record high at 2.9 percent.

On the other hand, the ratios for tooth decay continued to fall, setting record lows of 34 percent in junior high schoolers and 43.7 percent in high schoolers.

The downtrend is being credited to improved education on brushing teeth at school and greater awareness of parents about dental hygiene.

The survey also found that the proportion of 13-year-olds in Fukushima Prefecture weighing at least 20 percent more than standard stood at 12.29 percent, the highest by prefecture.

While obesity in children rose after the March 2011 nuclear disaster, which caused restrictions to be placed on outdoor activities as a result of contamination, “It cannot be said that (the proportion in Fukushima) is markedly higher than in other prefectures, so there may not be any significant effect,” the ministry said.

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