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Research Letter
May 2016

The Association Between Psychiatric Disorders and Frequent Indoor Tanning

Author Affiliations
  • 1Department of Psychology, San Diego State University, San Diego, California
  • 2Division of Prevention and Behavioral Medicine, Department of Medicine, University of Massachusetts Medical School, Worcester
JAMA Dermatol. 2016;152(5):577-579. doi:10.1001/jamadermatol.2015.5866

Limited research has explored psychiatric disorders associated with indoor tanning and tanning dependence. In a study conducted in 2006 of students at a large university in the northeastern United States, 90 of 229 (39%) who had used indoor tanning facilities met criteria for tanning dependence,1 a tanning pattern highly resistant to intervention. Given that tanners report mood and physical appearance as reasons for tanning, psychological disorders, such as seasonal affective disorder (SAD) and body dysmorphic disorder (BDD), may be common among this population. Past research found that 12 of 27 (44%) frequent indoor tanners met criteria for SAD compared with 14 of 56 (25%) nontanners.2 Other studies have found that stress in general is predictive of tanning dependence,1 and tanners have been shown to report lower levels of stress after tanning. Ashrafioun and Bonar3 reported that 57 of 165 (35%) tanners who met criteria for tanning dependence also met criteria for BDD, compared with 77 of 368 (21%) tanners who did not meet these criteria. In the study described here, we assessed the prevalence of SAD, clinically elevated stress, and BDD among a sample of women who frequently use indoor tanning, and we examined bivariate associations between tanning dependence and these psychological conditions.