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Myopia & the NICER Study

The NICER study

The Northern Ireland Childhood Errors of Refraction (NICER) study is the largest study in the UK or Ireland to examine how children's vision and in particular their refractive error (i.e. how long- or short-sighted they are) change through childhood and adolescence. The study began in 2006 when over a thousand 6-7 and 12-13 year old school children were enrolled and had their first vision assessment. Our research team visited primary and post-primary schools in the North and West of Ireland where we measured how well each child could see, how long- or short-sighted they were, the size of their eyes, their height and weight and also asked them and their parents about each child's lifestyle, diet and the family's history of spectacle wear.

Longitudinal Studies

Three and six years after the initial test, each participant was invited to have these measures repeated so that we have data for hundreds of children in two cohorts (1) children aged 6-7 years at the first test, 9-10 years at the second test and 12-13 years at the third test and (2) children and young people aged 12-13 years at the first test, 15-16 years at the second test and 18-19 years at the third assessment. These data, spanning six years for each child, provide us with a unique insight into the visual development of children in Northern Ireland and the factors influencing their vision and visual status.

The study has been funded throughout by the College of Optometrists.

Myopia, Outdoor activity, Sleep and Melatonin

We are hoping to continue studying the NICER participants as they enter adulthood to explore when and if their eye growth stops and whether further study influences this process. We have recently published novel data highlighting that myopes have significantly higher melatonin levels compared to non-myopes. Research in this area is ongoing.

Can we limit Myopia development?

We are involved in a UK and Ireland Clinical Trial using an eye drop on children identified as at-risk of developing myopia

Key findings to date:

  • Nearly one in 5 teenagers in Northern Ireland are short-sighted (myopic)
  • Teenagers in Northern Ireland are three times more likely to be short-sighted than comparable Australian teenagers, but not as likely to be short-sighted as Asian teenagers. The interplay between environment and genetics is likely to be important in determining how many children become short-sighted and how short-sighted they become. Our current research is exploring environmental factors in more detail
  • Children in Northern Ireland are becoming short-sighted more rapidly than English children in the 1960's
  • Long-sightedness (hyperopia) and a difference in refractive error between a person's two eyes (anisometropia) is more common in Northern Ireland than in other populations
  • Few children in Northern Ireland have significant visual impairment and most who need glasses have them available. However, 25% of children needing glasses, don't routinely bring them to school and their vision is poorer because of this

To view our published research in this area, please visit our publications section or for more information contact :