Is there any scientific backing to the claim that reading in dim light damages your eyes?

Related to: Does watching television damage the eyes?

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    Related: skeptics.stackexchange.com/questions/404/…
    – Sklivvz
    Commented Mar 21, 2011 at 22:18
  • That is true, I should keep that in mind next time. I do normally let questions linger for a bit. :)
    – Kit Sunde
    Commented Mar 22, 2011 at 16:32
  • The interesting thing is that this is cross-cultural. In the past, I've been told by old people to use a brighter light. Old European people, old Japanese people, ...
    – Kaz
    Commented Feb 4, 2013 at 21:15

2 Answers 2


No, there isn’t. This is a very old urban legend – nothing more:

Suboptimal lighting can create a sensation of having difficulty in focusing. It also decreases the rate of blinking and leads to discomfort from drying, particularly in conditions of voluntary squinting. The important counterpoint is that these effects do not persist.

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    That claim that we only use 10% of our brains ruins so many movies for me. :(
    – Kit Sunde
    Commented Mar 21, 2011 at 20:47
  • What about the following Logic: In lower lighting you will more likely hold the book closer to your eyes because it is harder to discern the letters. And holding the book very close while reading over longer periods is proposedly quite bad for your eyes? Corelation to near-sightedness ?
    – Falco
    Commented Jan 27, 2015 at 15:03
  • @Falco The problem with that logic is that it assumes that holding a book very close is bad for your eyes. And it likewise isn’t. It’s a shame that the reference I cite doesn’t go into more detail, but in fact this is already subsumed under the same explanation. Straining your eyes in general does not harm eyesight permanently. See the related question, which is linked above, at the top of the page. Commented Jan 27, 2015 at 15:07
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    @KonradRudolph What is with School Myopia? Cline, D; Hofstetter HW; Griffin JR (1997) - This is cited on many pages, was there a study to refute this claim ? Wikipedia also provides Links to the "Near-Work" hypothesis: myopiacausedbynearwork.blogspot.com/2014/05/…
    – Falco
    Commented Jan 27, 2015 at 15:15

No exactly like that, but the lack of outdoor/intense light exposure is an environmental risk factor in developing myopia. This factor is directly correlated with education, at least as currently practiced in East Asia, so a gene x environment interaction is probably the best description.

The mechanism how lack of exposure to intense light causes myopia is roughly (from the above sources): lack of intense/diurnal light decreases dopamine, which normally acts as an inhibitor to eye growth, which in turn leads to myopia.

So reading in low light is not bad for your eyes... unless this all you do. Also, all the sources I cited above are more recent than the myths paper cited in the accepted answer.

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