Tattoos linked to risky behaviour in students

American university students with tattoos are more likely than those without inked designs on their bodies to engage in drug use and risky sexual behaviour.

An investigation by US social scientists studied nearly 1,000 students undertaking physical education and health classes at a mid-western university. They found that 30% of the students did have a tattoo, with the most common locations being on the chest (38%), foot (27%), arm (16%), and back (14%).

Perhaps surprisingly, the researchers say females are more likely than males to have a tattoo but that for both sexes, tattooed students are significantly more likely than those without tattoos to use alcohol and marijuana and engage in risky sexual behaviours. Suicidal behaviours and suicidal thoughts, however, did not seem to be related to tattoo status among the students.

“University life often brings with it the chance to experience new things and students often take part in more spontaneous activities,” the researcher say in a report of the study in The Social Science Journal.

“This study looked at the relationship between students with tattoos and other risk-taking behaviour. Results showed that almost 30% of the students had a tattoo (obtained at some point before the survey, not necessarily at university) and that females were more likely to have a tattoo than males at university age.

Further, results showed that students with tattoos were more likely to engage in substance use and risky sexual behaviour than those who did not have a tattoo.

“College health professionals should be aware of these associations between tattooing and risky behavioural involvement. Education programmes are needed to increase student awareness of body modification and associated risk behaviours,” the researchers say.