CUPERTINO, Calif.—New vision health features that encourage healthy behaviors that help reduce the risk of myopia are making some headlines this week after Apple introduced its new iOS 17, iPadOS 17, and watchOS 10 systems on Monday. They include a monitor of Time in Daylight and language that talks to users about their time spent staring at screens. The moves are drawing interest from eyecare professionals who are looking to boost awareness of and treatment of myopia management.

Apple's announcement said, "Myopia, or nearsightedness, is the leading cause of vision impairment globally. It’s estimated to affect over 30 percent of the population currently and is expected to grow to 50 percent, or 5 billion people, by 2050. Eyecare providers recommend a few key behaviors in children to help reduce the risk of myopia. Two of these behaviors are spending more time outdoors in daylight and increasing the distance at which they view something like a device or a book."

Apple also pointed out, "The International Myopia Institute recommends children spend at least 80-120 minutes a day outdoors. With watchOS 10, Apple Watch introduces the ability to measure time spent in daylight using the ambient light sensor. Users can view the amount of time spent in daylight detected by their Apple Watch in the Health app in iOS 17 and iPadOS 17. Children who do not have their own iPhone can use Family Setup to pair their Apple Watch to their parent’s iPhone, giving parents visibility into the amount of time their kids are spending in daylight with Health Sharing. Time spent in daylight can provide additional benefits to physical and mental health, so this feature is available to all watchOS 10 users. Viewing something like a device or a book at too close of a distance is also a well-documented myopia risk factor."

The company added, "The new Screen Distance feature uses the same TrueDepth camera that powers Face ID on iPhone and iPad to encourage users to move their device farther away after holding it closer than 12 inches for an extended period of time. Screen Distance can remind younger users to engage in healthy viewing habits that can lower their risk of myopia, and it gives adult users the opportunity to reduce digital eyestrain."

“The new features of iPhone iOS 17, iPadOS 17, and watchOS 10 that encourage healthy behaviors and help reduce the risk of childhood myopia are a welcome addition to addressing the global myopia pandemic," said Dwight Akerman, OD, MBA, chief medical editor of Review of Myopia Management. "Especially important is Apple’s watchOS 10, which measures time spent in daylight using the ambient light sensor. Research shows spending at least 90 to 120 minutes per day outdoors lowers the risk of childhood myopia and may lower progression. Additionally, the new Screen Distance feature encourages users to move their device farther away."

CooperVision's Dr. Justin Kwan, OD, FAAO, senior manager, myopia management, added, "The public pays attention to what Apple is up to. Their current and ongoing work will continue to drive myopia awareness and interventions that will benefit children with myopia. This technology has the distinct advantage of being objective, lending itself to the power of big data. Previously, parents would just estimate the amount of time their children spend outside or periodically estimate their working distance from their eyes to their books and devices. Self reporting is always fraught with bias—now we can have more definitive and valid conclusions, quantifying the size of the benefit for these lifestyle modifications."
Added Dr. Debbie Jones, professor in Optometry at the University of Waterloo and lead clinical scientist at CORE (Centre for Ocular Research & Education), asked about the impact of the new features, said, "This is a great start but there is so much more still to do to educate parents on the need for routine eye examinations and the need for myopia control as soon as there is evidence of myopia and even before. If this can be accompanied by suitable education to parents there may be hope that we can impact pediatric myopia—especially delaying the onset in younger children by spending time outside. It's hard  to imagine that this will be affordable to the majority of families for their young children—the ones most at risk. Perhaps Apple can consider a pediatric version of the Apple Watch for just his type of thing."
New mental health features and the Mindfulness app in watchOS 10, bring a new way for users to reflect on their state of mind, Apple execs said, and allow users to log their momentary emotions and daily moods, see valuable insights, and easily access assessments and resources.

“Our goal is to empower people to take charge of their own health journey. With these innovative new features, we’re expanding the comprehensive range of health and wellness tools that we offer our users across iPhone, iPad, and Apple Watch,” said Sumbul Desai, MD, Apple’s vice president of Health. “Mental health and vision health are important, but often overlooked, and we’re excited to introduce features that offer valuable new insights to provide users with an even better understanding of their health. These insights help support users in their daily decisions and offer more informed conversations with their doctors.”