Psychosocial factors in sunbathing and sunscreen use

Health Psychol. 1987;6(5):477-93. doi: 10.1037//0278-6133.6.5.477.


Excessive exposure to the sun has been related to the development of various types of skin cancer, but use of sunscreen decreases the risk. The present project was designed to empirically examine psychosocial factors in sunbathing and sunscreen use. One hundred twenty sunbathing and nonsunbathing beachgoers were interviewed about their health practices, knowledge about skin cancer, moods, and social rewards obtained through sunbathing. They also completed several relevant personality questionnaires. Data were considered using a theoretical perspective combining aspects of health belief, social influence, social learning, and risk-taking models. Results indicate that sunbathing is clearly related to having a positive attitude toward risk taking, having little knowledge about skin cancer, reporting a relaxed mood, having friends who sunbathe, and engaging in activities related to maintaining a positive physical appearance. Sunscreen use is related to sex, having knowledge about skin cancer, knowing people who have had cancer, and reporting high levels of anxiety. The implications of these findings for the design of intervention strategies and for the future study of health-compromising behaviors are discussed.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Anxiety / psychology
  • Female
  • Heliotherapy / adverse effects
  • Heliotherapy / psychology*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Models, Psychological
  • Personality
  • Phototherapy / psychology*
  • Risk-Taking
  • Skin Neoplasms / prevention & control*
  • Sunlight / adverse effects
  • Sunscreening Agents / therapeutic use*


  • Sunscreening Agents