April 16, 2012

Do People With Body Art Drink More?

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Robert Carlson, M.D By:

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Alcohol consumption is higher in groups bearing tattoos and piercings or is it just the age group

(dailyRx News) People with body art are likely to be drinkers, but are the tattoos and piercings indicators that a person might enjoy partying or is it being young and social at bars that spikes the statistics?

The study finds that people with body art leaving bars blew higher blood alcohol content (BAC) into breathalyzers than people without body art. Possible factors contribute to bias of this study.

"Be aware of your risk taking behavior."

In a study conducted by Nicolas Guéguen Ph.D., professor of social behavior at the Université de Bretagne-Sud, young adults were tested for their BAC levels as they left bars on Saturday nights. Guéguen related the BAC levels to the existence of tattoos and piercings on the individual.

Over the course of four Saturday nights, 2,970 young men and women leaving French bars consented to Guéguen test. Results revealed that the people with body art had higher BACs then people without body art: men with no body art had a BAC of .18, tattoo only: .19, piercing only: .23 and both tattoo and piercing: .26. For women with no body art: .12, tattoo only: .14, piercing only: .20 and both: .24.

There are a couple of issues with this study according to Myrna Armstrong Ed.D, RN, FAAN, professor Emerita at Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center.

Armstrong authored many of the studies that Guéguen referenced for his work.

And, while she agrees that risk taking behavior may coincide with both getting body art and drinking, she does state, “you need to look at the ages of the groups being examined…already considered high-risk people in terms of their drinking and other behaviors simply because of their ages and their age-related desires to experiment.”

Armstrong goes further to say that this kind of study can lead to stereotyping people with body art as ‘high-risk’ and this can get in the way of seeing the reality of the situation for what it is: a high-risk age group. She also points out that there are many different motivations for getting tattoos, including religious reasons.

However, the number of tattoos or piercings can factor into levels of risk behavior.

After conducting all of her research in the area she concludes, “be very careful about generalizing among those with many tattoos or piercings and those with only one.”

The study does say that three-quarters of those tested were college students. Nearly 500 people declined to participate before the study even began and nearly 550 people refused to take the breathalyzer after being asked about their body art.

This study will be published in the journal Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research (ACER), July 2012.

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Reviewed by: 
Robert Carlson, M.D
Review Date: 
April 13, 2012

Last Updated:
April 16, 2012