Purpose: Indoor tanning (IT) increases risk for melanoma and is particularly common among young adult women. IT has also been linked with some psychiatric symptoms, and frequent tanning may indicate tanning dependence (addiction) associated with endorphin release during ultraviolet radiation exposure. The objective of the current study was to investigate associations between IT, tanning dependence, and psychiatric and substance use symptoms in young adult women.
Design: Cross-sectional survey and psychiatric interview.
Setting: Online, except for the Mini International Neuropsychiatric Interview (MINI), which was completed over the telephone.
Subjects: Participants were 306 female university students aged 18 to 25 years.
Measures: MINI, Seasonal Scale Index, tanning dependence scales, reporting ever having used a tanning bed or booth with tanning lamps (single item), reporting smoking a cigarette in the last 30 days (single item).
Analysis: Descriptive statistics, χ(2) analysis, multivariate logistic regression.
Results: Forty-six percent of the sample reported a history of IT, and 25% were classified as tanning dependent. Multivariate logistic regression analyses showed that IT was significantly associated with symptoms of alcohol use disorders, generalized anxiety, and not having social anxiety. Tanning dependence was associated with symptoms of alcohol use disorders.
Conclusion: Tanning is of concern not only for its association with skin cancer but for its association with psychiatric and substance use symptoms. Young women with certain psychological problems may seek relief from their symptoms by IT. These findings suggest that indoor tanners may benefit from health behavior and other psychosocial interventions.