When it comes to sunshine we are a funny lot.
Usually renowned for our reserve and self-restraint, when the sun comes out we flock together in our thousands to expose those pale and pasty body parts that rarely see the light of day under normal circumstances.
Go to any park, in any city, anywhere in the country on a sunny day and you will see more translucent white skin than in all the Twilight Saga films put together.
We’re almost as bad abroad. There’s a reason that Jamaicans call British holidaymakers “lobsters” which you’ll discover on the second day at the beach, if not the first.
The idea that sun is good for you seems to be built into our DNA and we respond like moths to a flame in the giddy pursuit of a healthy ‘colour’ with which to taunt our envious friends at home and colleagues at work.
Of course sunshine is a good thing; it produces vitamin D in our bodies and increases serotonin levels which are natural mood enhancers.
Strangely enough, though, researchers have consistently found that the ‘happiest’ people tend to be those living in Scandinavian countries like Norway, Sweden and Denmark where sunshine is a strictly limited commodity.
Even in the UK a 2012 study found the happiest communities to be those living in the most Northerly areas of the Shetlands, Orkney and Outer Hebrides where the population enjoys on average around 340 fewer hours of annual sunshine than the rest of us.
Icelanders suffer far fewer incidents of SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) than the US or the UK populations (between 7% and 10%).
So well-being and contentment are not necessarily linked to sunshine and climate.
Nor is the curious practice of slowly cooking ourselves under intense heat until our skin actually begins to brown like a chicken under a grill.
The belief that a partially cooked skin makes us look healthy is a purely aesthetic and social construct.
As someone of Celtic descent I have a very healthy respect for the sun and remove myself from its direct influence at every possible opportunity, knowing that otherwise my skin will quickly turn to crackling.
The experts at Cancer Research UK say that the sun should be avoided as much as possible between the hours of 11am and 3pm, when it is at its strongest.
But what is it they say about “mad dogs and Englishmen”…?
We are also advised to always wear at least a t-shirt to cover the back and shoulders and to protect ourselves with a brimmed hat, sunglasses and sunscreen with a minimum protection level of SP15.
For some reason, however, we seem to think that these warnings apply only to the sun as it appears in other countries, presumably because our British sun is so much more benign.
In a recent poll of 2,000 British holidaymakers 66% admitted to ‘covering up’ while abroad but not at home.
80% of the 2,000 confirmed that they had suffered sunburn within the UK most commonly on the beach, in the garden, or while watching a sporting event.
10% said they would never wear a hat anywhere, because hats “don’t suit them”.
I’d hate to see them on a building site.
If you enjoy finding out more about health matters then why not get the very latest news delivered fresh to your inbox every week? It's a completely FREE service so join up now, simply enter your email address below:
Please rest assured, we will never pass your email address to any other company. These emails are free and without obligation. You can unsubscribe any time you choose.