Monday, July 10

reading in the dark is safe

Don't believe your mom. Reading in dim light—along with other kinds of eye strain, like reading for too long—probably doesn't cause eye damage, the NY Times reports.

I would often read for a long time until the natural light got dim, and then when my mom or a housemate came in the room, they'd say, "Turn some lights on! You're reading in the dark!"

I was always skeptical that reading the dark is so dire, and to be a curmudgeon, I would say smugly back, "This exercises my eyes and makes them stronger."

None of us knew what we were talking about, it turns out.

It seems no one has actually studied long term effects of reading in the dark. (How would you do that comparison, anyway? Is there some profession where people sit in dim caves and read?)

But cross cultural studies have suggested that people with more education have higher rates of vision problems, especially those in professions that require a lot of reading, like laywers, editors, and doctors, the NY Times article says. (The self-effacing reporter who wrote the article failed to mention journalists in this camp.)

However, it's not clear whether the more educated simply have better access to vision care, the article says, so their problems show up in studies. And I would add that maybe those who have to read a lot for work are the ones who notice their eye problems more, and have do something about it to make their jobs bearable.

I recently got glasses, and was surprised at the difference it made. Before, I thought perhaps I was being paranoid in thinking my eyesight was diminishing, but it turns out it really was. Then I wondered if I had caused my problem by reading for too long of stretches, without looking away from the book enough. But this article—along with a comment from my eye doctor that it didn't matter whether I wore my glasses, since they'd neither my make vision get better or worse—makes me think that bad vision is something that just happens, and no one is to blame.


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