Behavioral risks associated with tattooing

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49 Scopus citations


Background and Objectives: Tattoos are an increasingly prevalent form of self-expression, especially for adolescents. This study was conducted to determine health-risk behaviors associated with tattoos in young men and women entering military service. Methods: We surveyed a cohort of 550 military recruits using a modification of the Youth Risk Behavioral Survey (YRBS), a validated instrument used to assess health risk behaviors in adolescents. All individuals entering basic training in the US Marine Corps or the US Air Force from June through September 1999 were eligible to participate. The primary outcome variables of interest were tobacco use, alcohol use, seatbelt use, suicidal behaviors, depression, and physical violence. Results: The survey response rate was 91% (n=499 of 550). Overall, 27% of respondents had tattoos (n=125) when entering military service. Women entering military service were more likely to have a tattoo than men. Controlling for age and gender, individuals with tattoos were more likely to smoke, drink heavily, use smokeless tobacco, and ride in a vehicle with someone who had been drinking than non-tattooed individuals. Conclusions: In a population of military recruits, tattoos were associated with predictable adverse health-risk behaviors. This represents an important opportunity for targeted preventive counseling.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)52-54
Number of pages3
JournalFamily medicine
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2003

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Family Practice


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