Focusing on Short-Sightedness in China

At The Wall Street Journal, Alex Frangos examines the fad gripping Hong Kong for wearing lenseless glasses as fashion accessories, often in conjunction with contact lenses.

The no-glass frames also don’t blind the wearer when walking out of the arctic air conditioning that blasts through most buildings into the tropical heat. “If you wear this, no fog,” she says.

And one more practicality: fake eyelashes. “If I have lenses here,” she says, sticking her finger through the frames, lashes “may clash with the glasses.” This way the lashes can stick through unimpeded ….

The paradox of wearing specs without corrective lenses is that people here badly need glasses.

Nearly 85% of people in their 20s in Hong Kong suffer from myopia, according to the Myopia Research Center, part of Hong Kong Polytechnic University’s School of Optometry. Levels of myopia, or shortsightedness, are similar on the mainland and elsewhere in east Asia and are on the rise.

The Telegraph’s Malcolm Moore reports recent research from China’s education ministry which echoes this 85% finding and suggests a steep rise in shortsightedness among younger Chinese:

Almost 41 per cent of primary school children now need spectacles, a 9.2 per cent rise from the last study in 2005. The prevalence rises to 67 per cent of middle school students and then to a remarkable 85 per cent of university students ….

Ethnic Chinese appear to be predisposed genetically to myopia, with the majority of young Chinese living in Taiwan, Hong Kong and Singapore also needing glasses.

However, researchers have shown that environment plays a significant role in a population’s general level of short-sightedness.

Professor Christopher Hammond, the Frost professor at King’s College London’s department of Ophthalmology, said there is a strong link between short-sightedness and greater levels of urbanisation and education.