To investigate the prevalence and time trends of refractive error (RE) among Chinese children under 18 years old.
PubMed, Embase, Web of Science were searched for articles that estimated prevalence of RE in Chinese children. Data of identified eligible studies was extracted by two investigators independently. Pooled prevalence of RE and its 95% confidence interval (95% CI) and the time trends of RE were investigated using Meta-analysis methods.
Of the 41 studies covering 1 051 784 subjects, the pooled prevalence of myopia, high myopia, hyperopia and astigmatism in Chinese children was 38.0% (95% confidence interval (CI) = 35.1%-41.1%), 2.8% (95% CI = 2.3%-3.4%), 5.2% (95% CI = 3.1%-8.6%) and 16.5% (95% CI = 12.3%-21.8%), respectively. Subgroup analysis show that children living in urban were at higher risk of RE. Prevalence of myopia and hyperopia were higher in Northern China compared with Southern China and high myopia and astigmatism were higher in Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan than in mainland China. Regression analysis showed an upward trend in myopia and hyperopia and a downward trend in high myopia and astigmatism with years.
The prevalence of RE is higher in urban areas than in rural for Chinese children. The much higher prevalence of myopia and astigmatism in China compared with foreign countries indicates the important role played by environment and genetic factors. Considering the large magnitude of refractive errors, much more attention should still be paid to RE prevention and treatment strategy development in China.

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