Sunburn Causes More Missed Days at Work

Sunburn Can Have Ripple Effect on Economy, Costing Millions

Medically Reviewed by Charlotte E. Grayson Mathis, MD on August 29, 2003
From the WebMD Archives

Aug. 29, 2003 -- The sting of sunburn is more far reaching than you might expect. Besides having a deadly link to skin cancer, a new study shows it is also a pain for the economy -- causing millions of dollars in missed workdays each year.

Researchers at the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston report that 16% of the sunburned beachgoers they surveyed miss an average of two workdays a year. The findings appear in the latest issue of Archives of Dermatology.

"The economic impact of sunburn is potentially enormous," said researcher Richard F. Wagner, MD, dermatology professor at University of Texas, in a news release.

Missed Days Add Up

And those missed days add up to big dollars for employers -- millions of dollars.

Researchers surveyed 56 sunburned beachgoers on a two-mile stretch of public beachfront in Galveston, Texas. They asked them questions to determine the frequency and severity of past sunburns. They also called them the next day to find out how much time they would miss from work as a result of the previous day's sunburn.

They found 68% reported painful sunburn. People who drank alcohol at the beach had more severe sunburns than nondrinkers, even if they spent the same amount of time in the sun. Finally, 28% of the group said they had missed between eight and nine days of work because of sunburn within the last year.

In all, nearly 50,000 Galveston County residents miss work as a result of sunburn each year. That means more than 90,000 lost workdays, totaling a whopping $10 million annually, researchers write.

When researchers projected their findings to apply to all the 3 million visitors to Galveston beaches each year, they found that sunburns there could cost the economy as much as $40 million each year in lost work.

Researchers did not factor sunburn-related expenses -- such as fees for doctor visits and drug costs -- into the equation.

Studies have showed that avoiding sunburns, especially in childhood and adolescence, may reduce the risk of melanoma skin cancer. The National Cancer Institute suggests reducing exposure to high-intensity UV radiation, wearing protective clothing when out in the sun, and using sunscreen to protect yourself.

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SOURCES: Warthan, M. Archives of Dermatology, August 2003; vol 139: pp 1003-1006. News release, University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston. National Cancer Institute.
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