Study: Teens Ignore Public Health Push For Sunscreen, Against Tanning

But did she use sunscreen?

Today I felt like stripping down naked outside and sucking up enough sunshine and vitamin D to get me through the winter. I did not, I’ll admit, think much about sunscreen.

Well, apparently, nor did a great swath of kids from Massachusetts. These adolescents (mostly girls) ranging in age from 10 to 13 were surveyed as part of a study in the journal Pediatrics this month that found despite an aggressive public health push promoting sunscreen and dissing golden tans, the message isn’t getting across.

Time’s Healthland reports:

Researchers surveyed 360 Massachusetts fifth graders, mostly aged 10 and 11, in 2004 about their sun-related behaviors, and then followed up with them again in 2007, when the kids were in eighth grade. Over those three years, the study found, teens sunbathed more often and used sunscreen less.

In fifth grade, half of kids said they used sunscreen “often or always” while out in the summer sun. By eighth grade, that percentage had dropped to 25%. In both surveys, more than half of kids reported having experienced a sunburn in the previous year, and the risk of sunburn increased most in “very fair to fair” teens — those who are at greatest risk.

Why? Likely vanity, in part: as they got older, teens were more likely to report “liking a tan.” In fifth grade, 53% of students said they liked tans; by eighth grade, 66% of students said the same. The percentage of teens who reported sunbathing to get a tan also increased from 22% in 2004 to 40% in 2007.

The increase was driven mostly by girls, who were twice as likely to report liking a tan and four times more likely to report having sunbathed in the previous year in 2007 than in 2004.

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  • Brianna D

    How many 10 and 11 year olds buy or ask [their parents for] sunscreen and/or think to use it? Not my 10 year old. I would argue that it’s most likely it’s the parents who suggest or make their kids were it when they are younger but as they get older, the parent probably checks less and leaves it to the child to put on sunscreen, deoderant or anything else. So in all, you’re comparing apples to oranges when looking at what they do in middle school vs junior high/teens. They probably liked tans before, but mom and dad was making them put on sunscreen.