• Kyodo

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Poor eyesight hit a record high in elementary, junior and senior high schools in fiscal 2016 as children spent more time reading from gadget screens, but tooth decay and obesity continued to drop, the government’s annual health survey says.

The education ministry reckons changing lifestyle habits are behind the trends.

Students who earned a healthy eyesight rating of 1.0 on the Japanese system came to just 31.4 percent in elementary school, 54.6 percent in junior high and nearly 66 percent in high school, the annual survey showed Thursday.

An official from the Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Ministry said children have become “accustomed to watching things up close with the spread of smartphones, video games and other devices.”

Regarding weight, the survey found a slight increase in obese students in many grades but said the long-term downtrend in overweight children remains intact.

According to the survey, first-year male high school students and first-year female junior high school students had the worst obesity rates, with 10.9 percent of males and 8.5 percent of females 20 percent heavier than average.

While changes in living conditions led to a rise in obese students in Fukushima Prefecture after the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake and nuclear crisis, the survey showed that children there had maintained their pre-disaster levels logged in fiscal 2015.

An official in charge of the survey said efforts by municipalities and nonprofit organizations to promote exercise may have contributed to the positive results in disaster-hit areas.

As for oral health, the percentage of students with dental cavities fell to a record low.

The survey said the percentage of students with cavities stands at almost 37.5 percent in junior high school and 49.2 percent in high school, both down roughly 3 points from the previous year.

The percentages at preschools and elementary schools stood at 35.6 percent and 48.8 percent, respectively. Although the figures were not record lows, they were near the best levels ever marked early in the postwar period.

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