More than 450 million Chinese—one in three people in the world’s most populous country—suffer from nearsightedness, according to statistics released by China’s National Health Commission in June. Sixty years ago, 10%-20% of the Chinese population was short-sighted. Today, one third—including a startling 90% of all teenagers and young adults—are myopic, according to the Commission.
But the prevalence of myopia in China does not appear to be related to a shortage of eye doctors. According to the World Health Organization, there are more than 28,000 ophthalmologists in China, five times more than WHO guidelines. And China is one of the world’s leading manufacturers of eyeglasses. Instead, researchers believe that the Chinese education system is at the root of the myopia epidemic. The amount of time that primary and middle school students in China spent on homework last year, many in front of computer screens, was 3.5 hours per day—triple the global average.