Open Journal Systems

Risk perception normalization of sunlight exposure

Gabriela Gaspar, Sílvia Luís

Article ID: 796
Vol 3, Issue 2, 2018, Article identifier:

VIEWS - 487 (Abstract) 234 (PDF)


Health organizations recommend avoiding direct sunlight exposure usually between 11 am and 5 pm. Nevertheless, it is common to see people on the beach during all day. This study focuses on understanding if sunlight exposure risk might be normalized. Risk normalization is a process by which people minimize a perceive threat to psychologically cope with it, frequently by using positive illusions. A pilot study (N = 44) suggests that the positive illusions most referred to explain exposition at unrecommended hours are the use of protective measures. To explore if knowledge of sunlight exposure risk and risk perception were negatively associated, illustrating risk normalization, a questionnaire was applied to a convenience sample (N = 276). This effect was found among those individuals that exposed themselves to sunlight between 12 am and 3 pm and reported a use of protective measures that was above the average. Furthermore, health literacy moderated the negative relation between knowledge and risk perception. This study suggests that it is important communicating that the use of protective measures during unrecommended hours does not guarantee protection, promoting health literacy, as it can minimize risk normalization, and understanding how information on risks and benefits interacts to influence risk perception.


Sunlight exposure; normalization of risk perception; positive illusions; health literacy

Full Text:


Included Database


Diffey B. Climate change, ozone depletion and the impact on ultraviolet exposure of human skin. Physics in medicine and biology 2003; 49(1): R1.

Hampton, S. The sun, the potential for skin cancer, and the affect on wound healing. British journal of community nursing 2017; 22(Sup6): S42.

Al-Naggar RA, Al-Naggar TH, Bobryshev YV. Perceptions and opinions towards skin cancer prevention in Malaysia: a qualitative approach. Asian Pacific Journal of Cancer Prevention 2011; 12: 995-999.

De Gruijl FR. Skin cancer and solar UV radiation. European Journal of Cancer 1999; 35(14): 2003-2009.

Rodrigues A, et al. Proteção solar em crianças e jovens portugueses: um estudo transversal [Sun protection in Portuguese children and young people: a cross-sectional study]. Psicologia, Saúde e Doenças 2014; 15(3): 828-841.

Sjöberg L, et al. Tanning and risk perception in adolescents. Health, risk & society 2004; 6(1): 81-94.

Bettencourt A, et al. Serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D levels in a healthy population from the North of Portugal. The journal of steroid biochemistry and molecular biology 2018; 175: 97-101.

Lavker RM, et al. Cumulative effects from repeated exposures to suberythemal doses of UVB and UVA in human skin. Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology 1995; 32(1): 53-62.

Lucas R, et al. Solar Ultraviolet Radiation: Global burden of disease from solar ultraviolet radiation. Environmental Burden of Disease Series. World Health Organization: Public Health and the Environment, 2006. 13.

Retrieved from

Direção-Geral da Saúde. Plano nacional de saúde [Nacional health plan], 2012-2016.

]Tur, BS. Does vitamin D supplementation reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease or is this a myth?. Archives of Rheumatology 2013; 28(3): 147-148.

Hoel DG, et al. The risks and benefits of sun exposure 2016. Dermato-endocrinology 2016; 8(1): e1248325.

Fischhoff B, et al. How safe is safe enough? A psychometric study of attitudes towards technological risks and benefits. Policy sciences 1978; 9(2): 127-152.

Luís S, et al. Is it all about awareness? The normalization of coastal risk. Journal of Risk Research 2016; 19(6): 810-826.

Luís S, Vauclair CM, Lima ML. Raising awareness of climate change causes? Cross-national evidence for the normalization of societal risk perception of climate change. Environmental Science & Policy 2018; 80: 74–81.

Lima ML, Barnett J, Vala J. Risk perception and technological development at a societal level. Risk Analysis: An International Journal 2005; 25(5): 1229-1239.

Twigger-Ross CL, Breakwell GM. Relating risk experience, venturesomeness and risk perception. Journal of Risk Research 1999; 2(1): 73–83.

Barnett J, Breakwell GM. Risk perception and experience: Hazard personality profiles and individual differences. Risk Analysis 2001; 21(1): 171–177.

Taylor SE. Adjustment to threatening events: A theory of cognitive adaptation. American psychologist 1983; 38(11): 1161-1173.

Nutbeam D. Health promotion glossary. Health Promotion International 1998; 13: 349-364

HLS-EU Consortium (2012): HLS-EU-Q16. The European Health Literacy Survey Questionnaire - short version.

Pedro AR, Amaral O, Escoval A. Literacia em saúde, dos dados à ação: tradução, validação e aplicação do European Health Literacy Survey em Portugal [Health literacy, from data to action: translation, validation and aplication of European Health Literacy Survey in Portugal]. Revista Portuguesa de Saúde Pública 2016; 34(3): 259-275.

]Jackson KM, Aiken LS. A psychosocial model of sun protection and sunbathing in young women: the impact of health beliefs, attitudes, norms, and self-efficacy for sun protection. Health Psychology 2000; 19(5): 469-478.

Youl PH, Janda M, Kimlin M. Vitamin D and sun protection: the impact of mixed public health messages in Australia. International Journal of Cancer 2009; 124(8): 1963-1970.

(487 Abstract Views, 234 PDF Downloads)


  • There are currently no refbacks.

Copyright (c) 2018 Gabriela Gaspar, Sílvia Luís

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.