An alarming connection between tanning and alcoholism

An alarming connection between tanning and alcoholism

People who frequently tan might have something else to worry about besides the risk of skin cancer. An addiction to tanning may be connected to other addictive behaviors – including a dependence on alcohol, according to a new study from the Yale University School of Health.

“A person who continuously engages in tanning may show similar characteristics often associated with compulsive or addictive behaviors,” says Bryan Denure, an Advocate Medical Group clinical counselor with Advocate BroMenn Medical Center in Normal, Ill. “A common similarity associated with compulsive tanning or other compulsive behaviors, like substance abuse, is the desire to alter one’s mood.”

Researchers surveyed 500 people who have tanned in the past. Twenty-five percent of the participants were put in the tanning-dependent, or addicted, category. Most of those addicted to tanning were women. Women were classified as tanning-dependent if they said yes to five or more questions out of the 13 questions.

The survey contained questions related to tanning and other addictions. Other questions were about depression, nicotine, alcohol and exercise. Results showed that those with a tanning-dependency had stronger ties to alcohol, depression and exercise dependencies. It is important to note that a connection between the dependencies was evident but there was no proof that tanning was the cause or effect of any other behaviors.

However, a study done at the University of Texas Southwestern found that UV light can activate parts of the brain that involve rewards and addictions.

“People who engage in compulsive tanning may share similarities with those who abuse substances in regards to issues of low self-worth, which can drive people to make poor choices in order to be perceived in a more positive manner,” said Denure.

He encourages those who are concerned about the amount of tanning they engage in – whether it be in the sun or in a tanning bed – to explore the connection between tanning and the change in mood they experience.

“For those who use compulsive tanning as a means of feeling better about themselves or as a way of influencing how others view them, it may be important to speak with your physician or seek counseling,” says Denure.

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About the Author

Megan Jensen
Megan Jensen

Megan Jensen, health enews contributor, is the marketing intern for Advocate BroMenn Medical Center in Normal, Ill. Megan is a senior public relations major at Illinois State University and plans to graduate in the Spring of 2017. Previously, Megan had the opportunity to intern in communications with Special Olympics Illinois and Illinois State University Hockey. Megan loves spending her free time traveling, spending time with friends and family, watching movies, and playing with her dog, Sophie.

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