You’ve heard about how dangerous the sun can be, especially when it comes to your skin. It’s no secret that direct sun exposure can increase your chances of skin cancer, while causing skin to look dry and weathered.
But the results of a new study from Sweden are showing that more sun might actually be a good thing. It found that people who get more sun exposure over the course of their life outlive those who get less (1).
The study followed over 30,000 women in Sweden for 20 years. It saw that those who had greater exposure to the sun were less likely to get heart disease or die from non-cancerous causes.
Should You Ditch the Sunscreen?
Now does this mean you should ditch the sunscreen and spend the rest of the summer baking in the sun? Not quite. The study failed to prove causation, and the results may point more to the fact that people who get a lot of sunlight exposure outdoors are more active or less likely to smoke, or perhaps have better diets. All of these things are known to extend a person’s lifespan.
But vitamin D may also play a role. Sun exposure is the best way to get your body to produce vitamin D, which is associated with a reduced risk of heart attacks and other illnesses. In that case, 20 to 60 minutes of sun exposure each day (depending on complexion) might be worthwhile.
There has been research indicating that direct exposure to sunlight, particularly before noon, can help reduce weight, lower the risk of heart disease, and improve overall happiness. Getting your sunlight in before it becomes too intense is likely the safest way to play it, and the benefits may be far-reaching (2).
Along with the fact that this study failed to prove that sunlight was directly responsible for increased longevity, it also indicated only marginally longer lives for those who got more sun; they only lived about seven months to two years longer. The study also made no mention of quality of life.
Personally, I love being outside in the summer. Typically, being outdoors means you’re being active, and that activity can provide multiple health benefits. But it’s important to stay protected. After about 20 to 60 minutes, it’s a good idea to apply sunscreen, wear a hat and sunglasses, and protect your skin from burning.