Changes in Refractive Error During Young Adulthood: The Effects of Longitudinal Screen Time, Ocular Sun Exposure, and Genetic Predisposition

Samantha Sze Yee Lee, Gareth Lingham, Carol A. Wang, Santiago Diaz Torres, Craig E. Pennell, Pirro G. Hysi, Christopher J. Hammond, Puya Gharahkhani, Rosie Clark, Jeremy A. Guggenheim, David A. Mackey

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Purpose: Changes in refractive error during young adulthood is common yet risk factors at this age are largely unexplored. This study explored risk factors for these changes, including gene-environmental interactions. Methods: Spherical equivalent refraction (SER) and axial length (AL) for 624 community-based adults were measured at 20 (baseline) and 28 years old. Participants were genotyped and their polygenic scores (PGS) for refractive error calculated. Self-reported screen time (computer, television, and mobile devices) from 20 to 28 years old were collected prospectively and longitudinal trajectories were generated. Past sun exposure was quantified using conjunctival ultraviolet autofluorescence (CUVAF) area. Results: Median change in SER and AL were -0.023 diopters (D)/year (interquartile range [IQR] = -0.062 to -0.008) and +0.01 mm/year (IQR = 0.000 to 0.026), respectively. Sex, baseline myopia, parental myopia, screen time, CUVAF, and PGS were significantly associated with myopic shift. Collectively, these factors accounted for approximately 20% of the variance in refractive error change, with screen time, CUVAF, and PGS each explaining approximately 1% of the variance. Four trajectories for total screen time were found: "consistently low" (n = 148), "consistently high" (n = 250), "consistently very high" (n = 76), and "increasing" (n = 150). Myopic shift was faster in those with "consistently high" or "consistently very high" screen time compared to "consistently-low" (P ≤ 0.031). For each z-score increase in PGS, changes in SER and AL increased by -0.005 D/year and 0.002 mm/year (P ≤ 0.045). Of the three types of screen time, only computer time was associated with myopic shift (P ≤ 0.040). There was no two- or three-way interaction effect between PGS, CUVAF, or screen time (P ≥ 0.26). Conclusions: Higher total or computer screen time, less sun exposure, and genetic predisposition are each independently associated with greater myopic shifts during young adulthood. Given that these factors explained only a small amount of the variance, there are likely other factors driving refractive error change during young adulthood.

Original languageEnglish
Article number28
Pages (from-to)28
Number of pages1
JournalInvestigative ophthalmology & visual science
Issue number14
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2023

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