What seems like an implausibly high figure may not be far off the mark, after all.
Reporting in the journal Lancet, the authors note that up to 90% of young adults in major East Asian countries, including China, Taiwan, Japan, Singapore and South Korea, are nearsighted. The overall rate of myopia in the U.K., by contrast, is about 20% to 30%.
At first glance, that number seems impossibly high -- almost unimaginably so. Could there have been a mistake? In China alone, 223 million people were 14 or younger in the latest census tally. If the research is right, that means over 200 million Chinese children suffer from poor vision. (Perhaps infants and preschoolers should be left out -- but then again, the official statistic also excludes students attending secondary school. The ballpark figure is shocking, either way.)
I called up Daniel Twelker, a research assistant professor in ophthalmology at the University of Arizona, to ask if there might be something skewing the results. Turns out, there's nothing skewing the results. That's right: as crazy as it sounds, those 200 million Chinese probably do have trouble seeing clearly.