College students who engage in excessive tanning exhibited features of psychiatric distress, with females more associated with problematic tanning and tanning dependence, according to recent study results.
Researchers studied 684 undergraduate students at a large Midwestern university who completed anonymous questionnaires online for credit in a psychology course. Five hundred thirty-three students (mean age, 19.5 years; 72% female) indicated they had tanned previously and were included in the study. Thirty-one percent of respondents (n=165) met Tanning-DSM-IV criteria for tanning dependence and 12% (n=65) met Tanning-CAGE criteria for problematic tanning.
Females were significantly associated with problematic tanning and tanning dependence (P<.001, both). Those who met criteria for problematic tanning and tanning dependence also were more likely to screen positive on measures of obsessive-compulsive (P<.001 and P=.005, respectively) and body dysmorphic (P=.019 and P<.001, respectively) disorders.
When controlled for shared variance among demographics and psychopathology, tanning frequency in the previous month showed the strongest correlation with problematic tanning and tanning dependence (P<.001, both).
“The results of this investigation do not provide definitive evidence for classifying problematic tanning or tanning dependence as addiction,” the researchers concluded. “However, further investigation … is warranted based on the extent to which frequency of tanning is positively associated with tanning dependence and problematic tanning even when considering the features of several psychiatric disorders.
“This line of research may help inform prevention and treatment programs, particularly for a population with a relatively high prevalence of tanning.”
Disclosure: The researchers report no relevant financial disclosures.