To investigate whether myopia is becoming more common across Europe and explore whether increasing education levels, an important environmental risk factor for myopia, might explain any temporal trend.
Meta-analysis of population-based, cross-sectional studies from the European Eye Epidemiology (E3) Consortium.
The E3 Consortium is a collaborative network of epidemiological studies of common eye diseases in adults across Europe. Refractive data were available for 61 946 participants from 15 population-based studies performed between 1990 and 2013; participants had a range of median ages from 44 to 78 years.
Noncycloplegic refraction, year of birth, and highest educational level achieved were obtained for all participants. Myopia was defined as a mean spherical equivalent ≤−0.75 diopters. A random-effects meta-analysis of age-specific myopia prevalence was performed, with sequential analyses stratified by year of birth and highest level of educational attainment.
Main Outcome Measures
Variation in age-specific myopia prevalence for differing years of birth and educational level.
There was a significant cohort effect for increasing myopia prevalence across more recent birth decades; age-standardized myopia prevalence increased from 17.8% (95% confidence interval [CI], 17.6–18.1) to 23.5% (95% CI, 23.2–23.7) in those born between 1910 and 1939 compared with 1940 and 1979 (P = 0.03). Education was significantly associated with myopia; for those completing primary, secondary, and higher education, the age-standardized prevalences were 25.4% (CI, 25.0–25.8), 29.1% (CI, 28.8–29.5), and 36.6% (CI, 36.1–37.2), respectively. Although more recent birth cohorts were more educated, this did not fully explain the cohort effect. Compared with the reference risk of participants born in the 1920s with only primary education, higher education or being born in the 1960s doubled the myopia prevalence ratio–2.43 (CI, 1.26–4.17) and 2.62 (CI, 1.31–5.00), respectively—whereas individuals born in the 1960s and completing higher education had approximately 4 times the reference risk: a prevalence ratio of 3.76 (CI, 2.21–6.57).
Myopia is becoming more common in Europe; although education levels have increased and are associated with myopia, higher education seems to be an additive rather than explanatory factor. Increasing levels of myopia carry significant clinical and economic implications, with more people at risk of the sight-threatening complications associated with high myopia.