Public Release: 

Face changing technology showing sun damage is most effective at promoting sun safe behavior

University of Surrey

  • New study examines the way sun safe messages are conveyed to young women and found that visual and personalised messaging that illustrate skin damage had the most impact
  • Research has significant relevance to young women who often don't protect themselves by using sun screen
  • Findings urge new approach to addressing one of the top threats to health

In a new study published today in the journal Cogent Psychology, researchers from the University of Surrey examined the way sun safe messages are conveyed to young women, and found that visual communication using technology to age participant's faces to emphasis sun damage and premature ageing is most effective.

The findings from the research concluded that young women are most concerned about the immediate damage to their skin, and that a visual, personalised message that illustrated more immediate skin damage had more impact than either text-based messages or damage in the longer term.

Fair skinned young women are the most at risk group for malignant melanoma, a type of cancer most attributable to UV. However, they often don't realise the extent of the risk. The new research studied the differences between text-based and visual messages and examined whether warning about future appearance has an impact on changing behaviours.

The results showed that after seeing their own face prematurely sun aged using the technology young women took two times the number of free sun screen samples and three times the number of skin cancer leaflets compared to those women who had read text information about the damaging nature of the sun. They also showed a 30% lower belief in the skin's ability to heal.

"Malignant melanoma is on the increase yet young women often don't protect themselves by using sun screen," said Professor Jane Ogden of the University of Surrey, one of the authors of the study.

"Our study explored the best way of framing messages to change their attitudes and promote healthier behaviour. The results showed that appearance based messages that used imagery to emphasise sun ageing were the most effective. This sun ageing technology could be used more widely to increase sun screen uptake by young women."

The relative impact of format and temporal framing on beliefs and behaviour is freely available for anyone to read via this permanent link: https://www.cogentoa.com/article/10.1080/23311908.2016.1210069

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Media enquiries: Peter La, Media Relations Office at the University of Surrey, Tel: 01483 689191 or E-mail: p.la@surrey.ac.uk

Notes to Editors:

About the University of Surrey

The University of Surrey is one of the UK's top higher education institutions and was recognised as the University of the Year in The Times and Sunday Times Good University Guide 2016. With 125 years of academic heritage since our founding in Battersea, and 50 years of world-class teaching and research in Guildford, the University of Surrey is the intellectual home for more than 15,200 students, 100,000 alumni and 2,800 staff.

Freedom of thought, pursuit of academic excellence, and the advancement and application of knowledge underpin the wonderful things happening here. Our mission is to transform lives and enrich society through outstanding teaching and learning, pioneering research and impactful innovation.

The University of Surrey has been recognised by three Queen's Anniversary Prizes for Further and Higher Education and is a destination of choice for higher learning in subjects ranging from Engineering to the Arts. As a global university, we are proud of our strong partnerships with internationally leading institutions and businesses, while being firmly engaged with our local community in Guildford and Surrey. We are committed to educating the next generation of professionals and leaders, and to providing thought leadership and innovation to address global challenges and contribute to a better tomorrow for the world.

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