Tattoos are a potential marker for mental health issues and risky behaviours, according to a new study in the International Journal of Dermatology.
The research applied a variety of statistical models to a sample of 2,008 adults to estimate the associations between tattoos and three health-related outcomes (overall health status, ever diagnosed with a mental health issue and sleep problems) as well as three risky behaviours (current smoking, ever spent time in jail or prison and number of sex partners).
The presence, number and specific features of tattoos were found to be positively correlated with mental health issues, sleeping issues and risky behaviours.
Forty-two per cent of those with a mental health diagnosis had a tattoo compared with 28.0 per cent of those never diagnosed. Over 36 per cent of those with sleep problems had a tattoo compared with 27.6 per cent of those without trouble sleeping.
Almost 50 per cent of current smokers had a tattoo compared with 28.1 per cent of non-smokers. The average number of sex partners in the past year was higher for those with a tattoo (1.5 partners) than those without (1.1 partners). Risky behaviours tended to increase with the number, visibility and offensiveness of tattoos.