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Research team: Why do many smart people wear glasses?


Relationship between level of education, intelligence and myopia checked
Glasses wearers give a wise impression to many people. Is this a myth or is there actually a connection between wearing glasses and cognitive intelligence? A team of researchers from the University Medical Center Mainz investigated this question. They demonstrated that there is actually a context - albeit an indirect one.

The intelligence itself has no influence on the development of myopia. But the higher the level of education, the greater the likelihood of being dependent on glasses. This is the result of the research team at the University Medical Center Mainz in the context of the "Myopia and Cognitive Performance: Results From the Gutenberg Health Study". The study results were published in the specialist journal "Investigative Ophthalmology & Visual Science".

Myopia the most common eye disease
Myopia is by far the most common eye disease, with strong myopia also being one of the main causes of visual impairment, reports the Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (JGU). In addition, myopia is "closely associated with an increased risk of complications such as retinal detachment, macular degeneration, premature cataracts and glaucoma." Knowing the causes of the disease plays a central role for early diagnosis and thus also for treatment. Because in the early stages myopia can be treated well, if not cured.

Are myopia not only more educated, but also more intelligent?
According to Professor Dr. Norbert Pfeiffer, director of the eye clinic and polyclinic of the University Medical Center Mainz, had already known from previous studies "that a high level of education often goes hand in hand with the development of myopia."

In the current study, led by Prof. Pfeiffer, Professor Dr. Alireza Mirshahi, Director of the Dardenne Eye Clinic in Bonn, and Professor Dr. Josef Unterrainer, Head of Medical Psychology and Medical Sociology at the Albert-Ludwigs-University Freiburg, has now investigated whether the level of education, but also intelligence, has an impact on the development of myopia.

For their investigation, the researchers used the data from the Gutenberg health study by the Mainz University Medical Center. This is one of the largest studies in the field of population-based research worldwide, according to the JGU. In the subcohort, the data from around 4,000 people between the ages of 40 and 79 were examined. Cognitive skills were assessed using the Tower of London (TOL) test, which measures the ability to think, plan and solve problems logically in 20 minutes. In addition, the researchers checked the eyesight of the test subjects, whereby myopia was short-sighted from a strength of less than or equal to minus 0.5 diopters.

Apparent connection between myopia and intelligence
In the tests, the "participants with a myopia as an average result achieved a value of 14", while "the comparison group of the non-myopic reached a value of only 12.9", according to the JGU. In addition, it had been shown that the result in the TOL test also improved with increasing diopter value. “This way, the very short-sighted participants achieved an average of 14.6 with more than six diopters,” reports the JGU. At first, it seemed that there was a clear connection between intelligence and myopia.

Education duration the decisive influencing factor
"Viewed in isolation, the cognitive performance, and thus the intelligence, is related to the occurrence of myopia"; the scientists report. This apparent connection between myopia and better performance in the TOL test had, however, dissolved if the influence of the number of years of education was taken into account.

The researchers found that the number of years of education is more directly and strongly related to myopia than cognitive performance. Intelligence is linked to myopia only through the influence of the level of education. "The level of education of a person and not his intelligence is primarily decisive for the development of myopia," the scientists report. With two equally intelligent people, the more likely to be nearsighted and more defective is the one who goes to school longer and who has the higher school leaving certificate.

Professor Pfeiffer concludes that the current study further emphasizes the importance of education in connection with myopia. Now it has to be clarified how this connection arises. In future studies, for example, the influence of working on the screen or using smartphones should be examined, the study author continued. (sb, fp)

Author and source information

Video: Smart People Wear Glasses (September 2020).