While being cautious about sun exposure is smart, Swedish scientists say avoiding it altogether may not be the best alternative, especially for women. They recently completed a decades-long study involving close to 30,000 women and found a link between regular sunlight exposure and better health.
Researchers from the Karolinska University Hospital determined that women who frequently spent time in the sun were less likely to die of heart disease or other causes than those who habitually covered up. In comparison, life expectancy rates for sun avoiders dropped by up to 2.1 years according to study results published last month in the Journal of Internal Medicine.
Also of note, avoiding sunlight was found to be about as harmful as smoking in terms of overall health and longevity. “We found smokers in the highest sun exposure group were at a similar risk as non-smokers avoiding sun exposure, indicating avoidance of sun exposure to be a risk factor of the same magnitude as smoking,” said lead author Dr. Pelle Lindqvist.
Lindqvist and his team believe the health advantages of spending time in the sun may come from the natural benefits of vitamin D (obtained largely from sun exposure), but they acknowledge more research is needed.