Do You Worry A Lot? Good.

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sunbeamWorrying about skin cancer appears more effective in getting people to wear sunscreen than disease statistics, a new study from the University of Buffalo finds.

Research on whether people use sunscreen or not usually tends to focus on education and what information people have read about and retain. Now, it seems worrying about the potential of getting cancer is more influential than knowledge, though they do seem to go hand in hand.

The study analyzed 1,500 randomly selected participants from a nationwide poll conducted by the National Cancer Institute. Participants had no history of cancer and were asked about their sunscreen use and sense of risk and worry about getting skin cancer. While frequency of sunscreen use varied widely, education was associated with increased sunscreen use as expected. Interestingly, worry even more directly influenced people’s behavior than education.

There is an interplay of emotions and facts in decision-making in general, so how does that relationship affect behavior? That is what these researchers are set ti find out. Since worrying and fear are most often seen as “irrational”, where education and informational influences are “rational”, studies tend to dismiss emotion when considering how best to increase sunscreen use in the population. These findings show that clinicians might want to consider appealing to people’s feelings more when encouraging preventative behaviors.

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