A woman works at a computer

Lockdown screen time leading to increased sight loss

A poll by Fight for Sight has found that 38% of people in the UK who have been using screens more during lockdown believe their eyesight has been affected as a result, leading to difficulty reading, migraines and poorer night vision.

The online poll, conducted by YouGov on behalf of Fight for Sight, shows that almost half (49%) of respondents’ screen time has increased since the pandemic began, with one third (33%) of these saying it has increased by more than two hours, up to four hours a day. Half (50%) of students and more than four in ten (42%) working adults believe an increase in screen time during the COVID-19 pandemic has negatively affected their sight.

Of the respondents who think their eyesight has deteriorated during the pandemic, 39% say they have difficulty reading as a result, 23% report having had headaches/migraines and 17% believe they have poorer night vision. In spite of this, more than one in five (21%) respondents said they were less likely to get an eye test now than they were before the pandemic because of fear of catching or spreading the virus, while nearly one in ten (9%) were less likely to get an eye test because they believed it was too expensive.

Fight for Sight is encouraging those who have found their screen time has increased in the last year to adopt the 20-20-20 rule to help prevent eye strain. The rule recommends that for every 20 minutes spent using a screen, you should try to look away at something that is 20 feet away from you for a total of 20 seconds. The charity is also emphasising the importance of having regular eye tests and reminding people that the majority of opticians are open for appointments throughout lockdown restrictions.

Under workplace health and safety regulations, employers must arrange and pay for an eye test for display screen equipment (DSE) users if asked for one, and provide glasses if an employee needs them only for DSE use.

Chief Executive at Fight for Sight, Sherine Krause said: 

“With the COVID-19 pandemic having forced so many of us to move to digital working, online learning and even virtual socialising, it is not surprising that our screen time has soared this year. However, it’s vital that the benefits of increased digital access and use during lockdown do not come at the detriment of our eye health.

"We would urge employers to take their responsibilities towards staff seriously during this period of extended homeworking and to encourage employees to take regular breaks from screens. People should also continue routine eye care throughout the pandemic and get their eyes tested if they feel their sight has deteriorated. More than half of all cases of sight loss are avoidable through early detection and prevention methods and regular eye tests can often detect symptomless sight-threatening conditions.”