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The Northern Ireland Childhood Errors of Refraction (NICER) study, part funded by the College of Optometrists, is the largest ever in the UK to examine changes in children’s vision and cycloplegic refractive error over time. Since 2006, the College has funded researchers at Ulster University to undertake a longitudinal study of refractive error, ocular biometry and visual status. The latest findings from this ongoing study provide vital information on how children’s eyes grow and change in the 21st century and inform how the profession’s practice and advice might change in view of these findings. 

We are now supporting Phase 4 of the NICER project, which will extend data collection to nine years, making it the longest prospective population-based study of refractive error (using cyclopegia) in childhood and early adulthood. Check back here for updates.

Key findings

The key findings from Phase 3 included: 

  • Nearly one in five teenagers in the UK are myopic.
  • Myopia is more than twice as prevalent  among UK children now than in the 1960’s (16.4% vs 7.2%).
  • Prevalence of myopia in white children in the UK is similar to that of white children in other countries.
  • Prevalence of myopia in white children in the UK is much lower than in Asian countries where the majority of school leavers are myopic. For example, in South Korea, 96.5% of 19 year old males are myopic.
  • Myopia is most likely to occur between six and 13 years of age.
  • Children with one myopic parent are almost three times more likely to be myopic by age 13 than a child without a myopic parent. This increases to over seven times more likely when both parents are myopes.
  • Children are becoming myopic at a younger age in the UK than in Australia. However, at ages 18-19 years, the prevalence of myopia in Australia and the UK is similar. 

Member briefing

We produced a member briefing on the project, and supported the open access publication of the following paper.

NICER study findings on myopia - member briefing

New evidence on the growing problem of childhood myopia in the UK.


Listen to our podcasts

Listen to Professor Chris Hammond, Consultant Ophthalmologist at Kings College London and St Thomas' hospital, and Professor Kathryn Saunders FCOptom, Professor of Optometry and Vision Science at Ulster University, discuss all things myopia. They talk about current evidence and how patients can be guided through their treatment options.


Other episodes on myopia


Further reading

McCullough SJ, O’Donoghue L, Saunders KJ (2016). Six Year Refractive Change among White Children and Young Adults: Evidence for Significant Increase in Myopia among White UK Children. PLoS ONE 11(1): e0146332. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0146332

Other resources of interest