Firstborn kids at risk to develop nearsightedness

Firstborn kids at risk to develop nearsightedness
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Firstborn children have a higher risk of developing nearsightedness than their younger siblings, partly because parents may be more invested in the education of their eldest kid, a new UK study suggests.

Firstborn children have a higher risk of developing nearsightedness than their younger siblings, partly because parents may be more invested in the education of their eldest kid, a new UK study suggests.


Jeremy A Guggenheim, of Cardiff University, UK, and colleagues found that first-born individuals in a sample of adults in the UK were approximately 10 per cent more likely to be myopic or about 20 per cent more likely to have high (more severe) myopia than later-born individuals.

The association was larger before adjusting for educational exposure, suggesting that reduced parental investment in the education of children with later birth orders may be partly responsible, researchers said.

Major known risk factors for myopia (nearsightedness) are genetic background, time spent outdoors, and time spent doing "near" work (including educational activities).

A prior analysis suggested myopia was more common in first-born children in a family compared with later-born children.

One potential cause of the association between birth order and myopia is parental investment in education; on average, parents have been reported to direct more of their available resources to earlier-born children, resulting in better educational attainment in earlier-born than later-born individuals.

Thus, parents may expose their earlier-born children to a more myopia-predisposing environment, according to background information in the study.

Researchers conducted an analysis of UK Biobank participants who were 40 to 69 years of age, were of white ethnicity, had a vision assessment and no history of eye disorders. The researchers determined the odds for myopia and by birth order, adjusting for age and sex, and education.

First-born individuals were approximately 10 per cent more likely to be myopic or about 20 per cent more likely to have high myopia than later-born individuals.

After adjusting for either of 2 measures of educational exposure - highest educational qualification or age at completion of full-time education - the association between birth order and myopia was lessened (by approximately 25 per cent) and no dose-response relationship was evident.

"Greater educational exposure in earlier-born children may expose them to a more myopiagenic [factors causing myopia] environment; for example, more time doing near work and less time spent outdoors," researchers said.

The findings "support the idea that reduced parental investment in children's education for offspring of later birth order contributed to the observed birth order vs myopia association and produced the observed dose-response relationship," they said.

The study was published by JAMA Ophthalmology.
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