Study says kids wearing contact lenses are more confident of the way they look, their athletic abilities, and acceptance by their friends as compared to children who wear eyeglasses.
Thus, according to the researchers, nearsighted children as young as eight years old reap social benefits from wearing contact lenses instead of glasses.
While doctors generally wait to prescribe contact lenses until children are in their early teens, nearsighted children often are diagnosed with myopia and receive their first corrective lenses around age 8.
Researchers aimed their study to examine the effects of contact lenses vs. eyeglasses on a number of kids' perceptions about themselves, especially what is called their global self-worth, or how valuable they think they are to society.
The results indicated that children's global self-worth was not significantly affected by whether they wore contact lenses or eyeglasses.
Similarly, the type of vision correction had no effect on how they felt they performed in school or how they perceived their own behavior.
"The effects really seem to be in areas that we would think made sense, how they feel about their appearance, athletic abilities and what their friends think of them," said Jeffrey Walline, assistant professor of optometry at Ohio State University and lead author of the study.
The study was conducted at five clinical centers in the U.S. that enrolled a total of 484 nearsighted children between the ages of 8 and 11.
Of those, 237 were randomly assigned to wear eyeglasses and the other 247 were randomly assigned disposable soft contact lenses for the three-year duration of the trial.
Before assigning corrective lenses for the study, the researchers surveyed the participants to determine whether they had low or high satisfaction with the eyeglasses they had been wearing before the study began.
"We thought kids who hated wearing glasses would have a lot greater benefit from contact lens wear than kids who thought glasses were perfectly fine. Overall, across the scale, it didn't seem to have much of an effect. But what that tells us is that, regardless of what kids think of their glasses, they seem to benefit from contact lens wear in these three specific areas," said Walline.
He added: "We thought kids who hated wearing glasses would have a lot greater benefit from contact lens wear than kids who thought glasses were perfectly fine. Overall, across the scale, it didn't seem to have much of an effect."
Although the children's global self worth scores increased across the board during the study, there was no significant difference in overall self-worth between the two treatment groups.
However, on average, contact lens wearers reported better perceptions about their own appearance than did kids wearing eyeglasses.
"The largest difference between the treatment groups was for physical appearance, regardless of whether they initially liked wearing glasses," said Walline.
He added: "This indicates that children's physical appearance self-perception is likely to improve with contact lens wear, even if they don't mind wearing glasses."
Also, the kids with contact lenses felt better about their athletic competitiveness than did kids wearing eyeglasses.
The children with contact lenses also felt they were more accepted by their friends than did those wearing eyeglasses.
But, over the course of the trial, both treatment groups experienced an overall increase in their social acceptance scores.
The research appears in the journal Optometry and Vision Science.