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Contact Lenses Boost Kids' Self-Image

Study finds they think they're better able to play sports, be accepted by peers

THURSDAY, March 5 (HealthDay News) -- Compared to glasses, contact lenses improve how children feel about their appearance, their ability to play sports and their acceptance among friends, a study of 484 nearsighted children finds.

"Many studies have examined the effect of spectacle wear on self-perception and the perception of others, but the majority of this research has been conducted on adults," study leader Jeffrey J. Walline, from Ohio State University's College of Optometry, said in an American Academy of Optometry news release. "Research shows spectacles to be associated with poorer self-perception in adults if they were first worn during childhood."

The children in this study, aged 8 to 11, were randomly assigned to wear either glasses (237) or contact lenses (247) for three years. Over that time, the researchers checked for changes in the children's self-perception in areas such as social acceptance, academic competence, athletic competence, physical appearance and behavioral conduct.

By the end of the study, children with contact lenses had significantly higher scores of self-perceived physical appearance, athletic competence and social acceptance. Academic confidence was higher for contact lens wearers who initially disliked wearing glasses.

The study, published in the March issue of Optometry and Vision Science, received funding from Johnson & Johnson Vision Care Inc. and The Vision Care Institute, LLC, a Johnson & Johnson Co.

"Published studies have shown glasses to be associated with negative attributes in areas of self-perception and attractiveness, so it was not surprising that children's physical appearance self-perception benefits from contact lens wear," study co-author Mitchell J. Prinstein, director of clinical physiology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, said in the news release.

The finding that children wearing contact lenses felt better about their athletic ability "are consistent with the growing body of research in this area demonstrating that contact lenses significantly improve how children feel about participating in activities such as sports," Walline noted.

"Anecdotally, children may participate in recreational activities without vision correction rather than risk breaking their glasses. Unlike glasses, contact lenses provide clear vision without impairing peripheral vision, so children may feel that their athletic competence improves, because they can see more clearly while participating in recreational activities," he said.

More information

The Nemours Foundation has more about children's vision.

-- Robert Preidt

SOURCE: American Academy of Optometry, news release, March 2, 2009

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