A recent study by OnePoll, conducted on behalf of CooperVision, manufacturer of soft contact lenses, found that 49 percent of Americans “feel society has become more digital and screen-oriented in the past five years.” The trend is not unexpected with 74 percent of employed Americans using a computer at their job and 7 in 10 Americans claiming that the first thing they do when they wake up in the morning is check their phone. The survey of 2,000 Americans found that on average, and assuming eight hours of sleep per night, individuals spend 6 hours 43 minutes a day looking at a screen, or 7,956 days of their life (assuming average U.S. life expectancy of 78 years). 79 percent of respondents reported that their screen time has increased over the past five years while 41 percent indicated that it increased “a lot.”
Diving into the effects of increasing digital screen usage, the study also found that the average American needs to take a break from digital screens every four hours due to discomfort. For those using a screen throughout the entire day, this corresponds to about three breaks a day away from a screen. About 3 in 4 survey respondents reported feeling physically tired after looking at screens. Even more concerning, 57 percent of respondents indicated a noticeable decline in their quality of vision and suspected this was related to their use of digital screens.
Attempting to address the challenges of eye fatigue and reduced quality of vision resulting from excessive digital screen use, CooperVision has released Biofinity Energys, a contact lens designed to help individuals shift their focus between digital devices and offline activities.
To learn more about the motivation, science, and impact of this new offering, Medgadget heard from Dr. Michele Andrews, OD, CooperVision’s Senior Director of Professional and Academic Affairs for North America.
Medgadget, Michael Batista: Thank you for taking the time to tell us more about CooperVision’s new offering. To start, what motivated CooperVision to evaluate the impact of digital screen time on vision fatigue and impairment?
Dr. Michele Andrews: Demands on the eye have changed dramatically over the last decade, largely due to the increased use of digital devices in today’s society. It used to be that most digital device use took place at work, but it is now prevalent during all waking hours—for both business and fun.
People of all ages have begun to feel the effects of this usage on their eyes. This discomfort has become known as digital eye fatigue or digital eye strain. It is most commonly felt after two or more hours in front of a screen and is characterized by tiredness and dryness. Still, these widespread symptoms are often dismissed as “normal” by a population that has become accustomed to a digital lifestyle.
It’s important for people to know the symptoms of digital eye fatigue and ways to combat their discomfort.
Medgadget: How do OnePoll’s study, and others, confidently establish that self-reported vision fatigue and impairment are related to the use of digital screens as opposed to some other source or ailment?
Dr. Andrews: Consumer-reported symptoms in OnePoll, as well as others we have conducted including a global survey this past year, are validated by clinical research into digital eye fatigue by experts in the field, including Dr. Peter Kollbaum at Indiana University. Of course, fatigue can be caused by other factors as well, which is exacerbated by growing digital screen use.
Medgadget: Why do modern screens, like smartphones, tablets and laptops, garner more attention and seem to have a bigger impact compared to other screen-based technologies, like televisions, that have been around for quite a bit longer?
Dr. Andrews: People typically view smartphones, tablets, and laptops at closer distances than they view televisions, so the impact on the eyes is more prominent. In addition, the advent of these handheld technologies—and the growth of social platforms, digital content, and more— encourages people to spend far greater amounts of time staring at digital screens.
Medgadget: Turning our attention to the Biofinity Energys, what is different about these contact lenses compared to CooperVision’s other soft contact lens offerings? Specifically, can you tell us a bit about CooperVision’s Digital Zone Optics lens design?
Dr. Andrews: CooperVision Biofinity Energys feature a lens design that is different than any other lens on the market; it was designed specifically for today’s digital lifestyles. Digital Zone Optics lens design helps people’s eyes better adapt as they move their gaze between digital devices and offline activities. When someone sustains focus on a digital device over a period of time, this can strain and overwork the ciliary muscles, which are the muscles in your eyes that enable you to focus on objects up close. It’s like holding a dumbbell in a curled position, or stretching and holding a rubber band between your fingers—the muscles get fatigued. CooperVision Biofinity Energys contact lenses can help reduce the stress on the ciliary muscles, which helps to reduce the symptoms of eye fatigue.
Medgadget: Which individuals are Biofinity Energys most likely to help? The results of the OnePoll study seem to suggest a correlation between younger generations and longer use of digital screens.
Dr. Andrews: CooperVision Biofinity Energys is an excellent option for the majority of contact lens wearers (i.e., those not using a lens such as a toric or multifocal). While the younger generation’s use of digital devices is significant, older adults aren’t far behind. There are many studies that show the substantial amounts of time that adults spend on digital devices between work and their personal lives, so it’s important to understand that this lens has the potential to help many contact lens wearers. Eye doctors have told us that patients of all ages are reporting less eye fatigue when they wear CooperVision Biofinity Energys contact lenses.
Medgadget: What kind of impact are you seeing in individuals using Biofinity Energys today?
Dr. Andrews: We have conducted a number of studies that show that CooperVision Biofinity Energys helps with eye tiredness and dryness. Some of the most impactful data points include:
- 8 out of 10 digital device users said that Biofinity Energys helped their eyes feel less tired
- 77% of patients agree that Biofinity Energys lenses help their eyes feel less strained at the end of the day, even after a long day of using digital devices
- 87% of patients agree that Biofinity Energys lenses help their eyes not feel strained
Medgadget: With this product, CooperVision shows its ability to identify and respond to a trend which impacts a broad range of consumers. To close, can you provide some insight into how CooperVision goes about identifying, designing, and deploying vision technologies in response to social or technology trends that impact the public?
Dr. Andrews: CooperVision observes trends and learns from other industries such as personal care and even spectacle lenses to see what advances may be translated into the contact lens arena. We also monitor public chatter—including on social media—to see what is relevant and interesting to today’s consumers. Our teams also conduct extensive research with eye care professionals and contact lens wearers to ensure the products we bring to market are meeting their needs.
Product page: Biofinity Energys…