Risk factor assessment of digital eye strain during the COVID-19 pandemic: a cross-sectional survey
Medical hypothesis discovery and innovation in ophthalmology,
Vol. 11 No. 3 (2022),
2 December 2022
AbstractBackground: Shifting to online learning during the coronavirus pandemic has increased the number of individuals symptomatic of digital eye strain (DES). This study aimed to determine the frequency and potential risk factors of DES among university staff members and students in this pandemic era.
Methods: A cross-sectional online survey was conducted during the pandemic, in May and June 2020. The online questionnaire was designed to collect data on DES-related ocular and extraocular manifestations. The survey was sent via social media to the previous year’s students and staff within the Faculty of Medicine, Tanta University, Tanta, Egypt. The responses were downloaded and analyzed.
Results: Of the 412 participants completing the questionnaire, 34 (8.3%) were university staff members with a mean (standard deviation [SD]) age of 36.7 (6.6) years, and 378 (91.7%) were university students with a mean (SD) age of 20.8 (1.8) years. Participants with DES symptoms numbered 294 (71.4%) before the lockdown, increasing to 366 (88.8%) during the last month, with 84 developing new-onset DES. Most participants reported ocular symptoms associated with DES. After the lockdown, both students and staff had a significant prolongation of nighttime digital screen use and TV watching, an increase in the 4-item Patient Health Questionnaire (PHQ-4) severity scale scores, and anxiety and depression, with a reduced duration of daytime reading (all P < 0.05). Students had a significant prolongation of daytime digital screen use and TV watching and an increase in the frequency of eye lubricant use and mean Perceived Stress Scale (PSS)-4 scores (all P < 0.05). Multiple logistic regression analysis revealed that studenthood and increased nighttime screen use were independent risk factors for DES by odds ratios (95% confidence intervals) of 10.60 (2.12 – 53.00) and 3.99 (1.71 – 9.34), respectively (both P < 0.05).
Conclusions: Lockdown and closure of the university, with a shift to online learning, increased the exposure of staff and students to digital screens and the number of individuals with DES. Studenthood and prolonged nighttime digital screen use were independent risk factors for DES. Further studies investigating the prevalence and risk factors of DES, comparing similar data during and after the pandemic, may reveal other aspects of DES caused by virtual reality-based training.
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