Spending more time staring at screens? Here’s how you can manage digital eye strain
Australians are spending more time on screens at the moment, using computers and smart phones constantly for work and pleasure. If you're going from remote working or studying to a Zoom hangout with friends or family, to a marathon session of Netflix, your overall time spent in front of a screen may add up to 10 hours or more a day. Our eyes aren’t meant to be fixed on a single object that long and it’s likely to have a negative effect on our eye health.
We conducted new research1 just before COVID-19 restrictions came into effect in early 2020, which revealed that the majority of Australian office workers were already experiencing symptoms of digital eye strain, with nine out of ten (90%) people claiming to have experienced at least one symptom of digital eye strain while at work.
As our daily routines include a lot more screen time, Australian workers who were experiencing frequent symptoms of digital eye strain before COVID-19 can expect to experience even more symptoms now.
Digital eye strain can cause dry or irritated eyes, lead to blurred vision, difficulty focusing, sensitivity to light, eye fatigue, headaches and difficulty reading small print.
There are some really simple things that you can do to combat the effects of digital eye strain, from drinking more water and blinking more often, to giving your eyes a break by looking up from your screen regularly.
Among those surveyed who have experienced symptoms of digital eye strain at work, neck, shoulder or back soreness (63%) and headaches (58%) were the two most common complaints, with eight in ten having experienced one or both symptoms.
Additionally, one in two (48%) Australian office workers have experienced difficulty concentrating while at work, while four in ten have had difficulty focusing (41%), have had sore, tired, burning or itchy eyes (40%), watery or dry eyes (40%), or have felt like they couldn’t keep their eyes open (38%) while at work.1
If you’re doing a lot of computer work, these handy tips should help you to look after your eyes:
- Blink! Humans normally blink about 15 times a minute. Make a conscious effort to blink as often as possible. This keeps the surface of your eyes from drying out. You might even want to put a sticky note on your computer screen reminding you to blink often!
- Drink lots of water. Your eyes also dry out when you’re dehydrated so it’s important to keep up your fluid intake when sitting in front of a screen all day.
- Follow the “20-20-20” Rule. Take regular breaks to give your eyes a rest : every 20 minutes shift your eyes to look at an object at least 20 meters away, for at least 20 seconds. The easiest way to do this is to look out your window at something outside.
- Adjust brightness and contrast. If your screen glows brighter than your surroundings, your eyes have to work harder to see. Adjust your screen brightness to match the level of light around you. Also, try increasing the contrast on your screen to reduce eye strain.
- Reduce the glare. The screens on today’s digital devices often have a lot of glare. Try using a matte screen filter to cut glare or simply cover your windows to avoid outside light shining on your screen
- Adjust your position at the computer. When using a computer, you should be sitting about 60cm (about at arm's length) from the screen. Also, position the screen so your eyes gaze slightly downward, not straight ahead or up.
- Get your eyes tested. Regular eye tests can help you with clear, comfortable vision. But they also offer a broader health assessment – your optometrist will check the health of your eyes and look for signs of other potential medical conditions.
- YouGov Galaxy, Digital Eye Strain Study prepared for Specsavers, January 2020. The study was conducted online among a representative sample of 1,118 Australians aged 18 years and older who work in an office or other environment involving considerable screen time.