College students with body art: Well-being or high-risk behavior?

Donna C. Owen, Myrna L. Armstrong, Jerome R. Koch, Alden E. Roberts

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

19 Scopus citations


Body art is mainstream, with wearers readily admitting to being risk takers. Yet, are high-risk behaviors (e.g., cigarette, alcohol, and illegal drug use, sexual activity) and emotional distress (e.g., depression, suicide, eating disorders, abuse/forced sexual activity) present in all individuals with body art? Of the 595 college students who were queried, 127 (21%) had tattoos and 195 (33%) had lifetime piercings, with 17 (3%) having intimate (nipple, genital, or both) piercings; they also reported their self-views regarding religion, self-esteem, and Need for Uniqueness. Three consistent self-identity outcomes for their body art were: it helped me (a) express myself, (b) feel unique, and (c) be myself. When quantifying their body art amounts, well-being similar to that of individuals with no body art was present in those with one tattoo and less than four piercings. Individuals with four or more tattoos, seven or more piercings, and/or intimate piercings described higher risk behaviors and emotional distress. Education, monitoring, and non-profiling should continue as body art is only "skin deep."

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)20-28
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Psychosocial Nursing and Mental Health Services
Issue number10
StatePublished - 2013


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