May 1, 2023
40% of Brits sunburnt in 2022’s extreme heatwave
UV data shows that sun protection was necessary for almost half the year in parts of the UK.
40%* of people in Great Britain reported a least one case of sunburn in 2022, with this percentage rising to more than half (56%) of young people (aged 18-34), according to a survey carried out by YouGov on behalf of the British Association of Dermatologists (BAD) to mark their annual Sun Awareness Week (1st-7th May).
2022 saw the UK’s highest recorded temperature, but also many consistently sunny days. Data supplied by the UK Health Security Agency shows that, with the exception of the most northern parts of Scotland, between a third and half of days in the UK in 2022 had a maximum UV index** of at least 3, the level at which sun protection is recommended for people with lighter skin tones. See the notes below for more information on this.
People in Great Britain are quick to take advantage of sunny days, with 76% of people saying that they would spend at least some time in the sun on a sunny day if they were not working. 29% would aim to sunbathe at least some of the time, with 7% saying that they would sunbathe as much as possible.
The desire for a tan remains high, with a third of people (33%) reporting that they deliberately tried to develop a tan through sun exposure in 2022, either through deliberate sunbathing (21%) or spending time in the sun without sun protection (12%). Sunbathing was most popular amongst women, with a quarter (25%) saying that they sunbathed with the intention of developing a tan in 2022.
Of the people who deliberated tried to develop a tan and would spend time in the sun, 60% said they did it because it made them look healthy, 51% said they did it because it made them look or feel more attractive, and 27% to build up a base tan. 8% of people said they sunbathe so that people know that they’ve been on holiday.
Sunbeds are only used by a small minority of people (3%) and usage remains low even in younger age groups (18-24-year-olds: 5%). Artificial tanning products are more popular (7%), particularly among women (11%).
The UV index is the best measure available to show the risk of sun damage on any given day, however, 57% of people said they would either rarely or never check the UV index if in the UK during April – September, with only 19% of people often or always checking it.
Professor Mabs Chowdhury, President of the British Association of Dermatologists, said:
“While 2022 was an extraordinarily hot and sunny year, the reality is that these extreme weather events are becoming more common. In some parts of the UK almost half the days last year had a peak UV index at or above the level at which sun protection is recommended for people with lighter skin tones. A mentality shift amongst the British public in terms of our behaviour in the sun is sorely needed.
“We are already reaping what we have sown with years of complacency when it comes to excessive sun exposure; skin cancer is the most common cancer in the UK with more than a quarter of a million cases a year. One in five people in this country will develop skin cancer in their lifetime – pretty grim odds.
“Discussing the weather is famously a national pastime, but most people focus on temperature or rain, and fail to check the UV index regularly. I would urge everyone to check the UV index as a matter of course, particularly between March and September. If it is at 3 or above then I would urge people, particularly those with lighter skin tones, to take sun protection precautions. That means making use of shade, wearing clothing which will shade your skin, and using sunscreen that is at least SPF 30.”
The latest skin cancer figures show that there are 16,700 new melanoma skin cancer cases in the UK every year and more than 200,000 keratinocyte skin cancers (also known as non-melanoma skin cancers). The BAD recommends people regularly check themselves for signs of skin cancer, see our ‘How do I check for skin cancer’ guide here.
For more information, please contact the media team: firstname.lastname@example.org, 07769000415.
Sun Awareness Week is a trademark of the British Association of Dermatologists and runs from the 1st to the 7th May 2023. The key aims of the week are to raise awareness of the importance of sun protection and the dangers of skin cancer.
* All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc. Total sample size was 2163 adults. Fieldwork was undertaken between 11th – 12th April 2023. The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all GB adults (aged 18+).
** UV Index data was supplied by the UK Health Security Agency under the Open Government Licence. The UV index is a measurement of the strength of the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) radiation in a given place at a given time.
|UV Index Collection Location move line||Number of days max UV Index rating was 3 or more||Percentage of days with a max UV Index of 3 or more|
|Source: UK Health Security Agency Data is pulled from fixed sites around the UK, with only sites with full daily data, or almost full daily data, included.|
If you would like sun protection or skin cancer advice, please feel free to draw on the following resources from the BAD:
Regardless of your skin colour, if you burn in the sun, have freckles, or a history of skin cancer, use regular sun protection – find out more here.
About the BAD
The British Association of Dermatologists (BAD) is the professional membership body for dermatologists in the UK. Founded in 1920, the BAD is a registered charity representing over 2,400 members, dedicated to medical education, professional practice and standards, and research in dermatology.
For further information about the charity, visit www.bad.org.uk.