A community survey of sun exposure, sunburn and sun protection

N Z Med J. 1995 Dec 8;108(1013):508-10.


Aim: To describe outdoor activities, sun protection behaviours and the experience of sunburn in a sample of New Zealanders during summer weekends of 1994.

Methods: 1243 respondents to a telephone survey provided information regarding their outdoor activities for the 5 hour period around midday of the previous Saturday and Sunday. The sample was drawn from those aged 15 to 65 years in the five centres of Auckland, Hamilton, Wellington, Christchurch and Dunedin. Respondents provided information on sun exposure, sunburn, sun protection and beliefs about tanning, as well as background demographic information, skin type and previous experience of sunburn.

Results: 12% of the sample (or 17% of all those outdoors) reported being sunburned on the preceding weekend, and those sunburned tended to be men, and to be under age 35 years. The face, neck and limbs were the areas most frequently reported as burned. Sporting activities and beach or water activities were associated with the highest number of episodes of burning. Overall 38% of those outside reported wearing a hat and 32% reported the use of a sunscreen. Positive attitudes to tanning were quite common and probably present the main target for change in the community.

Conclusion: On any sunny weekend in summer about three-quarters of adult New Zealanders will be out in the sun for relatively long periods of time, and many will get sunburned. The reduction of such harmful sun exposures remains an important public health goal.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Aged
  • Female
  • Health Behavior
  • Health Surveys*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • New Zealand / epidemiology
  • Protective Clothing / statistics & numerical data*
  • Recreation
  • Sex Factors
  • Skin Neoplasms / prevention & control
  • Sunburn / epidemiology*
  • Sunburn / etiology
  • Sunburn / prevention & control
  • Sunlight*
  • Sunscreening Agents*
  • Time Factors


  • Sunscreening Agents