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Experts reveal why office workers need to drastically cut down their screen time

Macro of girl's eyes reading internet, with reflection of screen in her eye�. (Getty Images)
Eyes constantly feeling strained from screen time? It's time to boost their health. (Getty Images)

British office workers are spending a total of 12 hours a day glued to a screen – putting their eyes at risk.

The average time spent working from a laptop each day is four hours and 36 minutes, the new research of 2,000 office workers finds. But that's just a fraction of their overall screen usage.

Workers are also spending an average of four hours 30 minutes scrolling their mobile phones, typically first reaching for them at 7.am (often to check work emails straight away) and not putting them down until nearly 10.30pm.

As many as 83% even start scrolling before kissing their partner good morning, while the majority look at their phone before stretching, yawning, and going to the loo. Not to mention they're also spending three hours glued to the TV each day.

Some 15% even admit they rarely or never take a screen break.

Sound like you? With this totalling 12 hours of screen time a day, or 60 hours in a working week, the Specsavers study highlights a cause for concern and serves as a useful reminder to make our eye health more of a priority this World Sight Day (12 October) and any day. Here's what you need to know.

Read more: Eye health: Sleeping in make-up and other bad habits that could cause harm (Yahoo Life UK, 7-min read)

woman working behind screens
Do you find yourself squinting and straining when working? (Getty Images)

How screen time is really affecting your eyesight

According to the new research, eight in 10 office workers believe their eyesight is suffering as a direct result of too much screen time, with 88% experiencing tired eyes or headaches.

More than a quarter have to enlarge the font size on their mobile phone so they can read it clearly and half confess they're forced to zoom in on images to see them clearly.

Meanwhile, 28% regularly squint at the screen – all of which are tell-tale signs of presbyopia. This makes it hard for middle-aged and older adults to see things up close and occurs because the lens (an inner part of the eye that helps the eye focus) stops focusing light correctly on the retina (a light-sensitive layer of tissue at the back of the eye), according to National Eye Institute (NIH).

While this is a normal part of ageing, you don't want to experience it any earlier or worse than needed. Other than increasing font size, holding materials further away, choosing large-print books, using brighter reading lights, and checking if you need glasses or contact lenses can help.

High angle view of mature man lying on bed in the morning and checking mail in his mobile phone
Don't reach for your phone as soon as you wake up. (Getty Images)

"Our eyes are not designed to be fixed on a single object for a long period of time, especially smaller format laptops, tablets or smart devices. They may feel uncomfortable, sore, tired and even start to itch or burn. In rare cases, dry eyes syndrome can lead to more serious eye issues," says Giles Edmonds, clinical services director at Specsavers.

Dry eye syndrome is a condition where the eyes do not make enough tears, or the tears evaporate too quickly. If appropriate measures aren't taken, this may lead to conjunctivitis (inflammation of a part of the eye called the conjunctiva, though is usually mild) or inflammation of the cornea (making the clear outer layer at the front of the eye vulnerable to ulceration and infection, which could potentially threaten your sight).

The good news is that there are some simple solutions to prevent eye strain and irritation, and preserve your eye health overall.

Read more: The symptom that saved a BBC presenter from losing her eyesight (Yahoo Life UK, 3-min read)

Young woman with dry eye uses eye drops while working. (Getty Images)
Improve your eye health on World Sight Day and every day. (Getty Images)

How to look after your eyes when working

These are Specsavers' holy grail tips for getting through the working day while looking after your eyes (other than minimising screen use before and after!).

  1. Rest your eyes: Follow the 20:20:20 rule, looking up from your screen every 20 minutes and look at something 20 feet away for at least 20 seconds. Looking into the distance helps relax the focusing muscles of your eyes, which in turn reduces eye fatigue

  2. Adjust your workstation: Change your screen settings to ensure that the brightness and contrast are balanced correctly, as well as making fonts larger. Also, be mindful of how your workstation is positioned. Adjust your screen so it is 15-20 degrees below eye level and around 50-70cm away from the eyes and make sure your room is properly lit to avoid squinting

  3. Reduce glare: Reflections on your computer screen can cause glare and lead to eye strain. Try reducing this by attaching an anti-glare screen to your monitor or laptop to avoid external light shining onto the screen. Glasses wearers can also have lenses treated with an anti-glare coating

Read more: Baby's big eyes were secret sign of rare cause of blindness (Yahoo Life UK, 5-min read)

Watch: Optician debunks most common eye muth

How your diet is affecting your eyesight

Did you know that what you eat has a big impact on your eye health? Only a third of adults aged 19 to 64 are getting their five-a-day of fruit and veg, meaning two thirds of us could be short of nutrients including essential vitamins and minerals to support our eyes, according to a report by optometrist Francesca Marchetti, Public health nutritionist Dr Emma Derbyshire, and clinical nutritionist Suzie Sawyer from MacuShield.

Apparently fruit and veg are the main source of lutein (a natural nutrient), which we need we need to help form macular pigment (the macula being the part of the eye responsible for clear, central vision), explains Dr Derbyshire. You can also find it in supplements – but consult your doctor.

"Many nutrients have a role in eye health, in particular vitamins and minerals such as zinc, vitamin C and vitamin B2," adds Sawyer. So essentially, make sure you're getting that five a day to reap the words for your eyes and overall health. Spinach, red peppers, kale, leeks, avocado, peaches and blueberries are particularly good for vision.

Moorfields eye hospital also recommends exercising regularly (the eyes need oxygen to stay at their best), getting a good night's sleep (to keep them feeling bright and refreshed), not smoking (this raises your risk of eye disease), using goggles to protect your eyes (lot of us forget to do this when we need to causing injuries), limit alcohol (too much interferes with your liver and reduces levels of an effective antioxidant to protect against eye disease), protect your eyes from the sun, maintain a healthy weight, drink plenty of water, and have regular eye exams.

Consult your optician or GP about any symptoms and what is best for you first.