The eldest child has 10% more risk of developing myopia or nearsightedness than later born siblings, study finds.
The firstborns generally get more attention than younger siblings but this extra focus and attention can become problematic as well.
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A new study suggests that the oldest child has more tendency of developing nearsightedness than later a born brother or sister and it has something to do with the parents’ over-emphasis on the child’s education.
According to other research, parents invest heavily on the educational attainment of the first born in the family. The instinct to provide ‘The Best’ tends to decrease as more babies arrive. As a consequence, first born children usually experience prolonged education exposure compared to rest of the siblings, which results in more chances of developing myopia or nearsightedness.
Nearsightedness is a growing concern in many counties including India, UK, Israel and China and the eye condition has increased tremendously over the past couple of generations.
The new study is based on a prior analysis of 90,000 adult participants from United Kingdom and Israel and it suggested that nearsightedness is 10% more common in firstborns than later born children.
To find a link between birth order and myopia, Jeremy Guggenheim, a professor of optometry and vision sciences at Cardiff University’s Eye Clinic and his colleagues accounted several factors including education exposure and found that more years of schooling are responsible for nearsightedness to an extent and indirectly parents as well. Parents do not pay as much attention to the education of later borns as the firstborns. So, the education of children with later birth order gets less intense.
“In the current study we set out to test whether the link between birth order and myopia might have arisen because first-born individuals tend to spend slightly longer in full-time education than later-born individuals," Jeremy Guggenheim, the lead author said.
"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."
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The data suggest that “association between birth order and myopia is not due to a new environmental pressure in the last 30 to 40 years. The attenuated effect size after adjusting for educational exposure supports a role for reduced parental investment in education of children with later birth orders in their relative protection from myopia.” Study concludes.