2020 Vision: 1 in 5 Brits believe their vision has declined over the course of lockdown

Issues they said they have suffered from most during lockdown include tired and sore eyes (28%), followed by having trouble falling asleep (28%), and headaches (24%). More women said they have suffered from these symptoms (68%) than men (57%).

Of the people who suffered from these symptoms, 52% believe it could be linked to the amount of time they spend looking at screens each day, with the 18-24s age bracket having the highest percentage of increased screen time compared to before lockdown (73% vs a national average of 57%).

The good news is that people do seem to recognise that eye health is important, with 40% of respondents saying they think of it most often when they consider their health (compared to 65% physical health and 52% mental health).

David Hutchfield, qualified optician and Head of Professional Services at Glasses Direct, comments, “It is no surprise that screen time has increased during the pandemic, whether it is working from home in front of a laptop all day, reconnecting with friends and family on video calls, or binging boxsets on Netflix. This increased screen time, and the added stresses of lockdown, has inevitably taken its toll on people’s eye health.

“On a more positive note, there are simple steps that people can take to make sure they keep their eyes in tip top condition, and prevent side effects such as dry itchy eyes, headaches, and blurry vision. In short: take a break from your screens when possible, get a good night’s sleep, and make sure you are protecting your eyes from external forces such as the sun’s harmful UV rays and blue-violet light from the sun and from digital devices.”

The survey also found that 49% of Brits know that screens flicker at a high rate which causes visual stress, but only 37% know there are digital blue light lenses available that can contribute alleviating digital eye strain and also protect their eyes from blue light-induced cumulative ageing . 1 in 10 (11%) of those surveyed own a pair of blue light glasses and 69% of these people bought their blue light glasses during lockdown.

Perhaps unsurprisingly there has also been a rise in online shopping. 38% of Brits said they would consider buying glasses online, with men being more likely (43%) to purchase glasses online versus women (34%).*

Lockdown has also been a time for people to gain perspective. 32% of those surveyed said lockdown has led them to have a clearer vision of how they want to live the rest of their life, and 37% say a change they will make is spending more time with people who are important to them. 59% say lockdown has helped them realise that certain things in life should be prioritised over others. Brits think family (52%) and health (45%) should be top priorities.

Glasses Direct’s top tips for keeping your eyes healthy:

  • Get regular eye tests: The purpose of an eye test is not just to check your vision and determine whether you need glasses, but also to check the overall health of your eyes. This is very important considering your eyes can give an early indication to wider health problems such as diabetes, high cholesterol, and even various forms of cancer. The NHS recommends that you get your eyes tested every two years, more often if advised by your ophthalmic practitioner or optometrist.
  • Reduce screen time or take breaks when you can: All this increased screen time can lead to digital eye strain, which causes headaches, dry eyes, and blurred vision. One contribution is blue light. We are exposed to more High Energy Visible (HEV) light, also called blue light, than ever before because of our many modern electronic devices, in addition to the very significant blue light we receive from daylight. HEV light regroups the shortest visible wavelengths, yet highest energy wavelengths, and they tend to flicker a lot more than longer, less energetic wavelengths. Blue light scatters more in the eye. This means they favour a glare that reduces visual contrast. Blue light blocking lenses help block some of these wavelengths, favouring better visual comfort and enhanced clarity. Blue-violet light (up to 455 nm) is proved to contribute to eye ageing, by favouring oxidative stress in the retina and inhibiting antioxidant defences.
  • Follow the 20/20/20: Every 20 minutes look at an object at least 20 feet away for at least 20 seconds to help relax your eyes.
  • Get a good night’s sleep: Just think about how hard your eyes are working all day! A good night’s sleep does wonders for the whole body, but also helps to give your eyes a break, keeps them hydrated, and prevents those annoying tired twitches. On a more serious note, a lack of sleep in the long term can contribute to conditions such as glaucoma, which is a condition where too much pressure builds up inside the eye.
  • Eat well: We all know it is good for your overall health to have a healthy, balanced diet, but make sure you are getting the right nutrients to keep your eyes healthy too. Food that are high in omega-3 fatty acids, zinc, and vitamins C and E all help to keep your eyes in good health. It is also important to keep well hydrated to ensure your eyes remain well lubricated.
  • Wear UV and blue blocking eyeglasses, wear sunglasses, have your lenses polarised or consider Transition lenses: Just like our skin, our eyes are vulnerable to the sun’s harmful ultraviolet (UV) rays and blue-violet light. When exposed over time, this contributes to accelerate eye ageing and is a contributing factor in cataracts (for UV) and age-related macular degeneration (for blue light). Make sure you wear sunglasses that block at least 99% of UVA and UVB rays – cheap sunglasses with no protection will not do! If you are a glasses-wearer, do not forget that most sunglasses frames can be fitted with prescription lenses. Prefer clear lenses with both UV and blue-violet light protection, for both indoors (digital screens, artificial lighting with windows…) and outdoors.

For more information on Glasses Direct, visit www.glassesdirect.co.uk.