Youth Responds To Vanity Rather Than Health - The Sunscreen Message

Sun Protection, Sunblock
Our youth might be more vain than we perceive, as it’s been shown by an educational message video study where an appearance related message resulted in behavioral modification more effectively than a health-based video while promoting sunscreen use among high school viewers.

Studying youth influence patterns to promote health messages department of dermatology, University of Colorado at Denver, conducted a study where they studied 50 high school students (mean age, 17.2 years) in a randomized control trial between February and March 2012. Twenty-five students (76% females) viewed an appearance-based video on ultraviolet induced premature aging, while the others (84% female) viewed a health-based video on UV exposure and skin cancer risk. Both videos were approximately 5 minutes long and viewed in a group setting. Researchers asked the students questions about sunscreen application use at baseline and at 6-week follow-up.

Sunscreen use increased slightly (0.9 ± 1.9 days/week; P=.096) in the students who viewed the health-based video compared with a larger increase (2.8 ± 2.2 days/week; P<.001) among students who watched the appearance-based video. Sunscreen was applied at a greater frequency in the appearance-based cohort (2.2 ± 1.4) compared with the health-based students (0.2 ± 0.6; P<.001). Both groups had significantly improved sunscreen knowledge scores, and at 6 weeks the difference in improvements was nearly equal.

The study was limited in that it focused on adolescents, and it might not be generalized to the universal population, as the researchers have reported. “Our study also demonstrates that appearance-based education can be effectively delivered by video. Researchers also concluded, “In contrast to appearance-based interventions using resource-intensive methods, such as UV photography, video education can be easily and widely disseminated to influence behavior.”

One message that came out loud and clear through this scientific exercise is that appearance-based messaging may be superior to traditional health-based messages in promoting sun-protection behaviors. 

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