New York: When it comes to preventing skin cancer, a little fear may be good for you as researchers found that fear and worry about skin cancer had a bigger influence on people’s use of sunscreen than information about the statistical likelihood of developing the disease.
“The findings suggest that clinicians might want to think more about feelings when encouraging people to use sunscreen,” said Marc Kiviniemi, an assistant professor at the University at Buffalo in the US.
Nearly 1,500 randomly selected participants with no personal history of skin cancer were asked about their sunscreen use, and questioned to gauge their perceived risk and worry for getting skin cancer.
Frequency of sunscreen use varied, with 32 percent reporting “never” using it, and 14 percent “always” using it.
In each case, however, worry more directly influenced people’s behaviour than informational findings, and increasing degrees of worry were associated with increased sunscreen use.
“This study is important because most of what we do in public health communications focuses on spreading knowledge and information,” Kiviniemi said.
“By not addressing emotions, we are potentially missing a rich influence on behaviour when interventions do not address feelings,” he added.
The study appeared in the Journal of Behavioural Medicine.