A case study of digital eye strain in a university student population during the 2020 COVID-19 lockdown in South Africa: evidence of an emerging public health issue
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Background. The COVID-19 pandemic resulted in a nationwide lockdown in South Africa, initiating a shift in society’s interaction to the online space. Students therefore became reliant on electronic devices for learning. Objective. The study aimed to investigate the prevalence of digital eye strain (DES) in a university student population during the nationwide COVID-19 lockdown in South Africa.
Methods. Randomly sampled 290 university students were surveyed online about their screen time and DES during lockdown. The survey included a validated screen time questionnaire to measure screen time in hours per day and a validated computer vision syndrome questionnaire (CVS-Q) to measure the frequency and intensity of symptoms during edevice use (s). Descriptive statistics were used to analyze CVS-Q scores and screen time.
Results. The mean (SD) age of the sample was 21.04 2.32 years. Of these, 82.41% used smartphone devices and 55.52% of the participants did not use any optical correction. The prevalence of DES during COVID-19 lockdown in 2020 was 64.24%. Screen time on an average weekday and over the weekend, as a primary activity, had a median of 13 hours per day during lockdown.
Conclusion. The high prevalence of digital eye strain may be a harbinger of a decrease in student performance. Creating awareness of proper visual hygiene amongst students is paramount in decreasing the high prevalence of DES.
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