Myopia and World History

Nearsightedness, or myopia, among East Asian schoolchildren (in Singapore, China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Japan, and Korea) is stunning: 80 to 90%.

The prevalence of myopia has been increasing, and it is said to be due to too much reading, or too little sunlight.

As usual stereotypes have some truth and near-sight is correlated with IQ. The folk wisdom that the smart kids wear glasses is one of many stereotypes with a solid grain of truth. This goes along with East Asian success in international school tests such as PISA.

Such is the present, but what of the past?

A bit of Googling and I haven’t found anything much on the subject of myopia in world history. So, it is ripe for speculation!

Is myopia largely modern, or is there evidence from the distant past? Have myopes have always been relatively more common in East Asia? If so, is this evidence of a longstanding level of high intelligence in the population?

How might myopia have influenced the culture of East Asia? Alan Macfarlane mentions the detailed craftwork, the paintings with hazy backgrounds, the absence of ball sports as possible signs of myopia before eyeglasses were introduced.

This is one of the few things where the vast storehouse of the internet yields little knowledge.

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