Sunburn Frequency and Sun Protection Attitudes among Ocean Lifeguards at Florida Beaches


Environmental Health Science

Department Name When Scholarship Produced

Environmental Health Science

Document Type


Publication Date



Objective. Research exists examining sunburn risks, sun protective behaviors, and interventions among pool lifeguards; however, ocean lifeguard research is limited. This study aimed to determine sunburn prevalence and associations between sunburn with photoprotective attitudes and habits among Florida ocean lifeguards.

Methods. A cross-sectional study was electronically administered in 2021 to ocean lifeguards using sun protection questions. Recruitment occurred through three lifeguard agencies. The frequency of self-reported sunburns from the prior season and the opinions and practices related to photoprotection and tanning were obtained.

Results. Complete data were obtained from 77 (37%) of 207 lifeguards who served during the 2020 swimming season (mean [SD] age, 22.9 [8.31] years; 40 male (52.0%) and 37 female (48.0%)). Sunburn was common with only four (5.2%) lifeguards reporting no sunburn. In total, 26 (33.8%) reported five or more sunburns. The median sunburn frequency was three. Reporting three or more sunburns was positively associated with being a teenager (16 to 18 years) (aOR: 14.9, 95% CI 3.5 to 64.2) or young adult (19 to 23 years) (aOR: 6.4, 95% CI 1.6 to 25.2) and having a neutral opinion regarding sunscreen effectiveness (aOR: 4.5, 95% CI 1.1 to 18.7) in logistic regression models.

Limitations. Self-reported sunburns were recalled and not clinically evaluated. Recall, participation, and social desirability biases may have been present.

Conclusion. Ocean lifeguards reported appreciably high rates of sunburn, especially younger lifeguards. Increased photoprotection education, engineering controls, and research are warranted for this occupational group.

Journal Title

Journal of Clinical & Aesthetic Dermatology