This year’s SHARC report is exciting. It allows a comparison of data over three years, so we now know whether a result seen last year was a change from an average, or the start of a trend.
The 2016 Skin Health Australia Report Card (the SHARC Report) is based on a national population survey that measures attitudinal and behavioural changes related to the skin health of the Australian population. The results are analysed and published as the SHARC Report.
Some interesting trends have been identified this year. The 2016 SHARC Report shows that Australia-wide attitudes and behaviours regarding skin health are improving, but there are some other interesting trends emerging.
One of those is an upwards trend in the reported incidence of psoriasis.
A focus on psoriasis
Interestingly, the 2016 SHARC Report proves an increase in the number of respondents living with psoriasis, from 5% in 2014, 6% in 2015, and 8% in 2016.
This upward trend may be due to increased awareness of the condition, greater consultation and diagnosis amongst general practitioners and specialists, or (albeit less likely) it may even mean the disease itself is becoming more common.
The survey used the Dermatology Life Quality Index (DLQI) to understand how
skin affects the quality of life for respondents. Although, for many cases,
psoriasis can be quite mild, for 18% of those living with psoriasis, the
disease can have a very large impact on their quality of life.
The 2016 SHARC Report also details the moving personal accounts of two
people living with psoriasis, shining a light beyond the raw statistics. Their stories
reveal the physical and emotional toll psoriasis can inflict, often over the
course of decades.
Preventing sun damage: two steps forward, one step back
The 2016 SHARC Report also illustrates both positive and disappointing results with respect to preventative behaviours against sun damage
The majority of people, 68%, are checking their skin for signs of skin
disease. 44% also have someone else check, though this could be improved. And
the large majority of Australians have a good understanding of how to maintain
skin health. For example, 80% believe in drinking water to maintain skin
health, 79% in protecting themselves from the sun, 75% in ensuring they have
good nutrition and 70% in using moisturiser.
Unfortunately, many people could be doing better.
Worryingly, despite the high risk factors in Australia, 49% of the population are still nonchalant towards the risks of skin cancer, saying they have no concerns about skin cancer or sun spots at all. That is despite 67% of respondents admitting their skin burns ‘always’, ‘easily, or ‘moderately’ in the sun. Equally concerning, was an unacceptably high proportion of the population, 66%, who were sunburnt in the last two years. Among 25-34 year olds, that figure rises to 76%.
Contributing to the high sunburn rates, are both behavioural and awareness
deficiencies. 36% of respondents do not protect themselves from the sun by
wearing a hat or sunscreen. Asked under what conditions such protection
measures were appropriate, 31% failed to identify a high UV index and 49%
failed to acknowledge the importance of the time of the day.
Worries in the workplace
The news in the workplace was equally inconsistent throughout the 2016
SHARC Report, with some improvements. However, both employers and employees run
the gauntlet by exposing themselves to unnecessary risk.
The percentage of outdoor workers reporting their employer provided them with
no protection from the sun at all, shrunk at a sizable and significant rate
from 44% in 2014 to 39% in 2015 and 30% in 2016. Related to this good news, it
was also reported that employers are providing sunscreen more often (rising
from 35% in 2014 to 38% in 2015 and 48% in 2016).
Yet more than 50% of employees who work outdoors reported their bosses are not
providing comprehensive protection, including a combination of sunscreen,
protective clothing, sunglasses and gloves, even though over 50% of those
surveyed work sometimes, regularly or always outdoors.
As with all Workplace Health and Safety issues, it is prudent to adopt a risk management approach – with the objective of reducing the risk of sun damage in the workplace to zero. That means having a suite of sun protection measures on offer.
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