Although tattoos and body piercings have gone mainstream, they still carry a connotation of risky behavior. And a new study suggests this stereotype is borne out in the drinking habits of those who modify their bodies: they drink more alcohol than their friends with undecorated skins.
For four Saturday nights, ninety-nine undergraduate business students in the west of France became temporary researchers. In four separate cities, they waited outside bars that catered primarily to college students, and surveyed youths as they left the drinking establishments. Almost 2000 subjects, 20 years old on average, told the interviewers how many tattoos and piercings they had, and underwent breathalyzer tests to determine how much alcohol they had consumed that night.
The study found that people with body artwork had more alcohol on their breath than those without. But the researchers also pointed out that in a previous study looking at tattoos and behavior, people who only had one tattoo tended to act more like their un-tattooed peers when it came to risky activities like drinking and unprotected sex. It was only when the researchers started looking at those with two or more tattoos that they noticed an increase in high-risk conduct. And it wasn't until the tattoo count hit seven that the risky behavior really shot up.
So if you see the Illustrated Man, can you assume he's an alcoholic? It's more accurate to say that tattoos and piercings go hand-in-hand with high-risk activities like excessive alcohol consumption - and this type of risk-taking also pairs well with being young. Many of those who get tattoos and body piercings are in their teens and early twenties, and this is also the age group that engages in more experimental behavior in the "high-risk" category, such as heavy drinking. So tattoos alone do not a drinker make – although they may mark a daredevil.