The share of Japanese elementary and junior high school children with less than “normal” visual acuity were again at a record high in the 2020 academic year, an education ministry survey showed Wednesday.
The proportion of obese children also rose in the year through March this year, hinting that their lifestyles may be affected by the novel coronavirus crisis, according to the health survey.
Children with uncorrected vision of less than 1.0 on the Japanese scale accounted for 37.52% of those surveyed at elementary schools, up almost 3 points from the year before. The proportion stood at 58.29% at junior high schools, up 0.82 point.
An acuity of 1.0 is equivalent to 20/20 vision in the United States and elsewhere.
The ministry obtained the figures using samples of the results of medical checkups conducted nationwide for children between ages 5 and 17.
Checkups are usually conducted between April and June, but the most recent survey included checkups done through March 2021.
The proportion of children with less than 1.0 acuity rises with age. It reached almost half of the surveyed elementary school sixth graders, while among the first graders the number was only one in four.
The survey also found that the proportion of fifth graders weighing at least 20% more than the standard weight stood at 14.24% for boys and 9.47% for girls, up from 10.63% and 8.46%, respectively.
The ministry said that the latest results cannot be directly compared with past data due to differences in the period the checkups were conducted.
But Takashi Eto, professor emeritus of the University of Tokyo, said that the figures “deteriorated rapidly in the latest year, presumably due to changes in (children’s) environments.”
Eto added that close attention must be paid to future trends in schoolchildren health data.
In response to the deterioration of schoolchildren’s eyesight, the ministry began surveying the prevalence of myopia among elementary and junior high school students this academic year.
It plans to conduct a survey on their lifestyles as well, aiming to take measures needed to prevent further worsening of eyesight.
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