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Pandemic Put Our Eyes Into ‘Overdrive,’ Survey Finds

VSP Vision Care surveyed 1,500 people.

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RANCHO CORDOVA, CA — About 80 percent of Americans in a new survey said pandemic-prompted screen time put their eyes in “overdrive.”

In fact, two-thirds of respondents report experiencing some degree of eye discomfort every day and nearly a quarter say their eyes feel worse now than they did a year ago, according to VSP Vision Care.

The nationally representative survey included 1,500 people.

More from the press release:

In the survey, more than half of Americans defined a “digital detox” as a break from screen time. However, according to VSP, there are other ways to relieve your eyes other than stepping away from screens completely:

Finding Relief from Digital Eye Strain

Digital eye strain can occur from prolonged and frequent use of screens, which engages our near vision, and exposes us to the blue light emitted by screens. Symptoms can appear as watery, dry, sore eyes, blurred vision and headaches. Although around 65% report experiencing eye discomfort on a daily basis, half of Americans sometimes miss their annual exam or never go, according to the survey.

“It’s important that people prioritize a visit to their eye doctor every year, not only to relieve eye discomfort but also for overall, long-term health,” said VSP network eye doctor Jennifer Wademan, OD. “During an annual comprehensive eye exam, eye doctors like myself, can determine how to provide relief from digital eye strain in ways that fit your lifestyle.”

Even if you have perfect vision, prolonged screen time – pandemic-related or not – can tire out your eyes. During an eye exam, your eye doctor may suggest a computer lens or a blue light-reducing, anti-reflective lens coating that can help reduce your exposure and combat digital eye strain. If you don’t wear prescription glasses, non-prescription lenses with a blue light-reducing, anti-reflective coating are available. Additionally, Dr. Wademan also recommends the 20-20-20 rule, where every 20 minutes, you take 20 seconds to look at something 20 feet away. This will help to reset your focus and help your eyes feel less fatigued due to digital eye strain. Blinking more frequently also helps to relieve discomfort by moistening your eyes.

Keeping an Eye Out for Kids

The survey found that more than half of parents are worried about the effects of their children’s increased screen time. Men are more likely than women to be worried about their children’s eyes and, when it comes to millennial dads, 6 in 10 are concerned about their children’s vision due to increased screen time.

The survey also found that nearly 60% of Americans report prioritizing a visit to their eye doctor out of a greater interest for their overall health. This is likely connected to a renewed sense of appreciation for health and total wellness of all kinds as Americans emerge from the pandemic.

“Visiting your eye doctor every year is about so much more than just seeing clearly,” said Kate Renwick-Espinosa, president of VSP Vision Care. “Eye care is health care, and through a comprehensive eye exam, your eye doctor can detect early signs of serious health conditions like diabetes and hypertension. It’s the perfect moment to make your family’s eye health a priority and engage with your optometrist as a unique member of your health care team.”

Here are the findings at a glance:

More than 9 in 10 Americans think it’s important to take care of their vision.

Most Americans report a pandemic-related increase in screen time is affecting their eyes.

4 in 5 are concerned about protecting their eyes coming out of the pandemic.

Nearly a quarter of Americans say their eyes feel worse now than before the pandemic.

58% of Americans were aware of the term “digital eye strain” prior to the survey.

13% first learned the term “digital eye strain” during the pandemic.

Over half of Americans report looking at a computer most of the day, every day.

Nearly 2 in 3 experience some degree of eye discomfort on a daily basis.

Roughly 1 in 5 Americans prioritize paying regular visits to the eye doctor.

58% of Americans prioritize visiting their eye doctor in the next 12 months out of a greater concern for their health.

Some cite increased barriers to scheduling eye care appointments during the pandemic.

Over half would schedule an appointment with an eye doctor to relieve eye discomfort.

80% would be willing to schedule routine computer breaks to relieve digital eye strain.

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