Tanning addiction and psychopathology: Further evaluation of anxiety disorders and substance abuse

J Am Acad Dermatol. 2014 Mar;70(3):473-80. doi: 10.1016/j.jaad.2013.10.057. Epub 2013 Dec 25.


Background: Little research has investigated the correlates of problematic tanning and tanning dependence.

Objective: We sought to identify characteristics associated with problematic tanning and tanning dependence, and to evaluate simultaneously the associations of variables as correlates of problematic tanning and tanning dependence.

Method: To assess tanning-related characteristics, psychopathology, and demographics, we administered questionnaires to 533 tanning university students; 31% met criteria for tanning dependence, 12% for problematic tanning.

Results: Both problematic tanning and tanning dependence were significantly associated with being female (P < .001 and P < .001, respectively) and with screening positive on measures of obsessive-compulsive (P < .001 and P = .005, respectively) and body dysmorphic (P = .019 and P < .001, respectively) disorders. Frequency of tanning in the past month was the strongest correlate of problematic tanning (P < .001) and tanning dependence (P < .001) when included in a model that controlled for shared variance among demographics and psychopathology.

Limitations: The sample was recruited from 1 university and contained only self-report measures.

Conclusion: Results suggest that many who engage in excessive tanning may also have significant psychiatric distress. Additional research is needed to characterize compulsive, problematic tanning and its rates, correlates, and risk factors among diverse samples.

Keywords: behavioral addictions; obsessive-compulsive disorder; problematic tanning; tanning dependence; university students.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Evaluation Study
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Age Distribution
  • Anxiety Disorders / diagnosis
  • Anxiety Disorders / epidemiology*
  • Beauty Culture
  • Behavior, Addictive / diagnosis
  • Behavior, Addictive / epidemiology*
  • Comorbidity
  • Confidence Intervals
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Male
  • Odds Ratio
  • Risk Assessment
  • Sex Distribution
  • Skin Neoplasms / etiology
  • Skin Neoplasms / prevention & control
  • Students
  • Substance-Related Disorders / diagnosis
  • Substance-Related Disorders / epidemiology*
  • Sunbathing / psychology*
  • Sunbathing / statistics & numerical data
  • Ultraviolet Rays / adverse effects*
  • Universities
  • Young Adult