Blinking hell: how to keep tired eyes healthy during a pandemic

Nearly a third of survey respondents blamed the increase in screen time for the apparent deterioration of their eyesight. Composite: Getty

(Elle Hunt/ The Guardian) — Are you worried your vision has grown worse this year? You’re definitely not alone. But from the 20-20-20 rule to changing the size of your text, there are simple ways to address it.

In the pandemic, our eyes are working harder than ever. With the majority of our communication nonverbal, and all but the upper third of our faces covered by masks, we are more reliant on them to express tone, emotion and even individuality, with a recent explosion in online tutorials for “mask makeup.”

Yet as we rely on our eyes to do the talking, we may also be putting them under greater strain. In June, a survey by the College of Optometrists, the professional body in the UK, found that 22% of people polled believed their vision had worsened during lockdown. The reason why they might feel this way is obvious: when the mask comes off, most of the time our gaze is trained on a screen.

In the pandemic, devices are the new site of work meetings, exercise classes, socialising, school and other activities that used to take place in person, as well as the go-to means of passing the time. Nearly a third of survey respondents blamed the increase in screen time for the apparent deterioration of their eyesight. (…)

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