Messages influencing college women's tanning bed use: statistical versus narrative evidence format and a self-assessment to increase perceived susceptibility

J Health Commun. Sep-Oct 2003;8(5):443-61. doi: 10.1080/713852118.


Understanding the effect of messages and other influences on health decision-making has the potential to decrease risky behavior such as tanning bed use. This study explores the effect of type of evidence, self-assessments of risk for skin cancer, and personality factors on intention to use and use of tanning beds among Caucasian female college students. Specifically, it targeted the perceived susceptibility component of the Health Belief Model and its impact on intention to tan as well as changes in actual tanning behavior. College students (N=141) in the southeast United States read randomly assigned messages and self-assessments, filled out surveys, and were later contacted for a follow-up telephone survey. The statistical message was rated higher on information value and also resulted in decreased intention to tan, decreased tanning behavior, and increased perceived susceptibility to skin cancer. The narrative message, in contrast, increased perceptions of realism and also worked to decrease intentions to tan. Additionally, the self-assessment manipulation resulted in increased susceptibility and decreased intention to tan and post tanning behavior. Personality factors explained small portions of variance. Key limitations and directions for future research are also addressed.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Comparative Study
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Beauty Culture*
  • Communication*
  • European Continental Ancestry Group / psychology*
  • Female
  • Health Behavior / ethnology*
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice*
  • Humans
  • Intention
  • Risk Assessment*
  • Risk Factors
  • Skin Neoplasms / ethnology
  • Skin Neoplasms / etiology*
  • Skin Neoplasms / prevention & control
  • Social Marketing
  • Southeastern United States
  • Students / psychology*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Ultraviolet Rays / adverse effects*
  • Universities