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Impaired vision and physical activity in childhood and adolescence: findings from the Millennium Cohort Study


Background/aims Investigate if impaired vision is associated with reduced levels and differences in types of physical activity (PA) to identify barriers or enablers to achieving healthy PA levels.

Methods Data from the Millennium Cohort Study of children born in the UK in 2000–2001 and followed-up to age 14 years (n=11 571). Using parental report on eye conditions coded by clinicians, children were categorised as having no, unilateral or bilateral impaired vision. Outcomes included objective accelerometer-derived time spent in moderate-to-vigorous physical activity (MVPA), and 16 PA types reported by parents, teachers and/or participants, covering physical education (PE), organised sports, self-organised sports and hobbies.

Results Overall, 50% of 7-year-olds and subsequently 41% as 14-year-olds achieved the internationally recommended level of ≥60 MVPA min/day, irrespective of vision status, and mainly attributable to PE and organised sports. Bilateral impaired vision (vs none) was associated with parent-reported difficulties with PE (adjusted OR, 4.67; 95% CI, 2.31 to 9.41), self-rated poor ability in PE (3.21; 1.44 to 7.15) and not enjoy indoor PA (0.48; 0.26 to 0.88). Unilateral impaired vision was associated with both parent-rated difficulties (1.80; 1.26 to 2.59) and teachers’ perception of low ability in PE (2.27; 1.57 to 3.28), and reduced odds of high participation in organised sports (0.77; 0.59 to 0.99). Age-related trajectories showed suboptimal PA in childhood tracked into adolescence, with no difference by vision status.

Conclusion Population-wide programmes to increase PA levels in children should pay special attention to those with impaired vision and include early interventions to encourage participation and confidence in PE and organised sports, starting in primary school and maintained afterwards.

  • epidemiology
  • vision

Data availability statement

Data are freely available from the UK Data Service,!/access-data. For this study, we utilised the first six surveys (MCS1-6 SN:4683, 5350, 5795, 6411, 7464, and 8156). We had special access privileges as co-investigators on the CLOSER grant to the original parental report on eye conditions (variable EYEX in MCS2-4). Access is otherwise obtained via Information on eye conditions was included in the coding of longstanding illness (variable CLSI in MCS2-4) that is present in the freely available survey data from the UK Data Archive. The longstanding illness is based on the International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems 10th version (ICD-10).

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