Prevalence and Correlates of Observed Sun Protection Behaviors Across Different Public Outdoor Settings in Melbourne, Australia

Ashleigh Haynes, Andrea Nathan, Clover Maitland, Helen Dixon, Anna Nicholson, Melanie Wakefield, Suzanne Dobbinson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)


Skin cancer prevention efforts in Australia have increasingly incorporated a focus on protection during incidental sun exposure. This complements the long-present messages promoting protection in high-risk settings and avoidance of acute intense bouts of sun exposure. Data from two waves of a cross-sectional direct observational survey was used to assess the prevalence and correlates of N = 12,083 adolescents’ and adults’ sun protection behavior (arm and leg cover, hat, sunglasses, and shade cover). Individuals were observed in public outdoor settings in Melbourne, Australia during peak ultraviolet (UV) times (11 a.m.–3 p.m.) on summer weekends. Settings included pools and beaches, parks and gardens, and for the first time in 2018, outdoor streets and cafés which may capture more incidental forms of sun exposure and represent another public setting where Australians commonly spend time outdoors. Females and older adults were consistently better protected than males and adolescents. Physical activity was strongly associated with low shade cover across settings. Weather was more strongly associated with sun protection at outdoor streets/cafes and parks/gardens than at pools/beaches but use of observed sun protection (particularly arm cover and covering hat) was low across settings. Continued public education about UV risk and its relation to weather and the seasons is needed to promote the routine use of multiple forms of sun protection during outdoor activities in peak UV times, especially among males and adolescents. Findings also highlight the importance of considering activity demands of public spaces in shade planning to optimize sun protection during outdoor activities in public spaces.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)405-414
Number of pages10
JournalHealth Education and Behavior
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2022
Externally publishedYes


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