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Talking about sunbed tanning: Social representations and identity-work

TAYLOR, Jennifer, Murray, Michael and Lamont, Alexandra (2017) Talking about sunbed tanning: Social representations and identity-work. Social Science & Medicine, 184. pp. 161-168. ISSN 0277-9536

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Abstract or description

Rationale
Despite the publicised health risks associated with its usage, sunbed tanning remains popular in many Western countries. Previous research indicates that knowledge of the harmful effects does not necessarily lead to a reduction in sunbed use.

Objective
The aim of this study was to develop a more extensive social psychological understanding of sunbed use, in the United Kingdom, by exploring the social representations of sunbed tanning held by both those who use and who have never used sunbeds.

Method
Semi-structured interviews were conducted with 15 sunbed users and 10 who had never used a sunbed.

Results
A thematic analysis identified two dimensions in the social representations of both the users and non-users; these were concerned with a) health and b) beauty. However, whereas non-users emphasised the health risks, users downplayed and minimised them, instead emphasising the health benefits. Similarly, whereas non-users emphasised the negative aspects of excessive concern with beauty, sunbed users challenged and distanced themselves from this negativity. Sunbed users were engaged in a form of identity-work to protect themselves from the wider negativity and disapproval of which they were aware.

Conclusion
Theoretically, social representations theory has provided a unique lens through which to explore this topic, highlighting the importance of taking into consideration the wider environment in which sunbed use takes place. Preliminary practical suggestions include that health workers should consider identity-work when designing interventions aimed at reducing sunbed use. Findings also suggest that, rather than continuing to educate sunbed users about the risks, campaigns and interventions should challenge the commonly drawn upon arguments about the health benefits. These benefits emerged as a particularly powerful discursive tool for the sunbed users in helping to justify their behaviour, but also to counteract negative stereotypes and assumptions they knew others held of them.

Item Type: Article
Faculty: School of Life Sciences and Education > Psychology
Depositing User: Jennifer TAYLOR
Date Deposited: 03 Apr 2018 14:53
Last Modified: 03 Apr 2018 15:04
URI: http://eprints.staffs.ac.uk/id/eprint/4282

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