A new study suggests that nearly 70% of millennials are affected by “digital eye strain,” which is the temporary physical eye discomfort you feel after two or more hours of looking at a desktop, a laptop, a tablet, an e-reader, a cell phone or any other type of digital screen.
Causes of digital eye strain
A new report on digital eye strain published by The Vision Council states that nearly four in 10 millennials spend at least nine hours on a digital device, and that 68%, or nearly seven in 10, report digital eye strain. For Gen Xers, nearly one-third, or 32%, also spend at least nine hours looking at a screen, and six in 10, or 63%, also experience the strain.
Yet for millennials and Gen-Xers, looking at some type of digital screen is unavoidable and often part of the job. And it doesn’t help that, when you’re done working, a reported 95% choose to spend their personal lives looking at digital devices three hours more every day.
A person blinks about 18 times every minute, according to the Visual Council. When looking at a screen, those blink rates become lower, and when that happens, tear coating disappears more quickly, leading to symptoms of digital eye strain — red, dry or irritated eyes, eye fatigue, blurred vision and even back and neck pain. Those issues are exacerbated when you continually stare at small screens like smartphones, have bad posture or an ineffective computer set up. Even such things as the dry air in your office environment can affect your vision.
Exposure to LED, fluorescent light and longer hours in the sun and blue light exposure — or high-energy visible or HEV light that comes from the backlit displays of our screens — can have an impact on your vision as well. The Vision Council places special emphasis on blue light because it can damage retinal cells, although at this time research on the subject is still emerging.
Ways to Prevent Digital Eye Strain
So how do you ameliorate digital eye strain? Well, the easiest method is that you should take breaks from staring at your computer screen as many time as you can. If you can’t, just look away. Look at anything other than your screen a few times every hour. Although there’s no consensus of what works best for your eyes, here are a few other guidelines that might help.
— The Vision Council suggest a“20-20-20” break, which is taking a 20-second break and looking at something “20 feet away” every 20 minutes.
— The Canadian Ministry of Labor states that a five-minute break for every hour looking at a screen will help minimize eye damage.
— The UK’s Health and Safety Regulations has similar guidelines to Canada’s Ministry of Labor, suggesting a 5-10 minute break after 50-60 minutes of looking at a screen.
— Adjust display settings on your computer to avoid eye strain and reading anything that you have to squint for. In addition, an anti-glare screen for your monitor might help.
— Lastly, because office environment lighting and the brightness of computer screens can do much damage, you should make sure that the latter is the same as the light levels in your work area.
While you’re at it, you can also adjust screen height, maintain good posture and visit an eye care provider who can prescribe you computer eyewear that improves vision at the same time it helps reduce digital eye strain.
It’s your vision, so you might as well retain healthy eye conditions to avoid something severe as you grow older.