Effect of education on myopia: Evidence from the United Kingdom ROSLA 1972 reform

Denis Plotnikov, Cathy Williams, Denize Atan, Neil M Davies, Neema Ghorbani Mojarrad, Jeremy A Guggenheim*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

23 Citations (Scopus)
53 Downloads (Pure)


Purpose: Cross-sectional and longitudinal studies have consistently reported an association between education and myopia. However, conventional observational studies are at risk of bias due to confounding by factors such as socioeconomic position and parental educational attainment. The current study aimed to estimate the causal effect of education on refractive error using regression discontinuity analysis.
Methods: Regression discontinuity analysis was applied to assess the influence on refractive error of the raising of the school leaving age (ROSLA) from 15 to 16 years introduced in England and Wales in 1972. For comparison, a conventional ordinary least squares (OLS) analysis was performed. The analysis sample comprised 21,548 UK Biobank participants born in a 9-year interval centred on September 1957, the date of birth of those first affected by ROSLA.
Results:In OLS analysis, the ROSLA 1972 reform was associated with a -0.29 D (95% CI: -0.36 to 0.21, p < 0.001) more negative refractive error. In other words, the refractive error of the study sample became more negative by 0.29 D during the transition from a minimum school leaving age of 15 to 16 years of age. Regression discontinuity analysis estimated the causal effect of the ROSLA 1972 reform on refractive error as: -0.77 D (95% CI: 1.53 to -0.02, p = 0.04). 
Conclusions: Additional compulsory schooling due to the ROSLA 1972 reform was associated with a more negative refractive error, providing additional support for a causal relationship between education and myopia.
Original languageEnglish
Article number7
Number of pages9
JournalInvestigative Ophthalmology and Visual Science
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - 4 Sept 2020


  • refractive error
  • myopia
  • education
  • regression discontinuity
  • UK Biobank


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