Sun Damage: A Millennial Problem?

It would seem as if the risks of sun exposure would be well understood by all segments of the general population, from teenagers to the elderly. If researchers from the Oregon State University Cascades are correct, however, there is one group that is not aware of the threat posed by ultraviolet rays – millennials.

Getting Answers

A total of 250 college students volunteered to answer a series of questions regarding a variety of topics, many of which are listed below:

  • Beliefs about the usefulness of sunscreen
  • Beliefs regarding the damage caused by UV light
  • Tanning habits and reasons for tanning
  • Questions designed to document personality traits, or lack thereof

Furthermore, each participant was asked to complete an 11-question sun safety knowledge test. An example of one of the true/false questions posed was “when applied correctly, SPF 100 is twice as effective as SPF 50.” For those not in the know, the answer to this question is “false.”

Knowledge is Power…or is it?

Once the team reviewed their respondent’s answers, they were able to reach the following conclusions:

  • Nearly seven in ten students reported attempting to tan via outdoor sun exposure.
  • Having a tan was deemed to be important by a third of survey-takers.
  • A sizable amount of the participants linked tanning to their self-esteem. Specifically, 37 percent of students stated that tanning improved their mood, while 41 percent stated that tanned skin had a positive effect on their confidence levels.
  • Addictive tanning behavior was noticeably more pronounced among those with lower self-esteem and higher levels of narcissism.
  • Perhaps most surprisingly, the surveys revealed that increased knowledge regarding sun safety did not change the student’s tanning-related behaviors.

In short, the researchers concluded that narcissism and poor self-esteem are fueling tanning among millennials, and current efforts to cut down on tanning among this group have yet to yield results. “The number of people still deliberately exposing their skin to the sun for tanning purposes is alarming,” stated lead author Amy Watson. “We need to find new ways to entice people to protect their skin, including challenging the ideal of tan skin as a standard of beauty.”

The Journal of Consumer Affairs published the study in its Spring 2018 issue.

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