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Myopia is a problem of public health concern in Singapore for three reasons. Firstly, the prevalence of myopia (more than −0.5 dioptres (D)) is one of the highest worldwide. Twenty per cent of Singapore children are myopic at 7 years at the start of their primary education,1 with prevalence exceeding 70% upon completing college education.2-4 Other population based studies showed myopia prevalence of 15% in preschool 4 year old children,5 80% in military conscripts,6 and nearly 40% in adult Chinese aged 40 and older.7 This is 1.5–3 times higher than similarly aged white or black populations in the United States,8-10 and elsewhere.1112
Secondly, a large proportion of Singaporeans has high myopia (more than −6.0 D), which has been observed across the whole age spectrum.167 While the prevalence of high myopia is less than 2% in most Western populations,1011approximately 10% of Singapore adults have the condition.67
Thirdly, available data suggest that both prevalence and severity of myopia have increased significantly over the past two decades. Based on serial cross sectional data from the Singapore Armed Forces, myopia prevalence in military conscripts has increased from 26% in the late 1970s, to 43% in the 1980s, 66% in the mid 1990s, and 83% by the late 1990s.61314 This is accompanied by a twofold rise in the proportion with myopia worse than −8 D, from 2% to 4% between 1993 and 1997.4 A similar trend of increasing myopia prevalence has been observed in schoolchildren.115
The underlying explanation for high myopia prevalence and severity in Singapore is not well understood. Available data suggest that this phenomenon is not unique to Singapore. A high prevalence of myopia has also been described in other east …