The near work and outdoor activity are the most important environmental risk factors for myopia. However, data from Chinese rural children are relatively rare and remain controversial. Therefore, the purpose of this study was to evaluate the relationship of both near work and outdoor activities with refractive error in rural children in China.
In this cross-sectional study, 572 (65.1%) of 878 children (6-18 years of age) were included from the Handan Offspring Myopia Study (HOMS). Information from the parents on these children, as well as the parent's non-cycloplegic refraction, were obtained from the database of the Handan Eye Study conducted in the years 2006-2007. A comprehensive vision examination, including cycloplegic refraction, and a related questionnaire, were assessed on all children.
The overall time spent on near work and outdoor activity in the children was 4.8 ± 1.6 and 2.9 ± 1.4 h per day, respectively. Myopic children spent more time on near work (5.0 ± 1.7 h vs.4.7 ± 1.6 h, p = 0.049), while no significant difference was found in outdoor activity hours (2.8 ± 1.3 h vs. 3.0 ± 1.4 h, p = 0.38), as compared to non-myopic children. In the multiple logistic analysis, in general, no association between near work and myopia was found after adjusting for the children's age, gender, parental refractive error, parental educational level, and daily outdoor activity hours [odds ratio (OR), 95% confidence interval (CI): 1.10, 0.94-1.27]. However, a weak protective effect of the outdoor activity on myopia was found (OR, 95% CI: 0.82, 0.70-0.96), after adjusting for similar confounders.
In general, no association between near work and myopia was found, except for the high near work subgroup with moderate outdoor activity levels. A weak protective effect of outdoor activity on myopia in Chinese rural children was observed.