Background: Little is known about the prevalence and consequences of body art application.
Objective: Our aim was to provide US tattooing and body piercing prevalence, societal distribution, and medical and social consequence data.
Methods: Random digit dialing technology was used to obtain a national probability sample of 253 women and 247 men who were 18 to 50 years of age.
Results: Of our respondents, 24% had tattoos and 14% had body piercings. Tattooing was equally common in both sexes, but body piercing was more common among women. Other associations were a lack of religious affiliation, extended jail time, previous drinking, and recreational drug use. Local medical complications, including broken teeth, were present in one third of those with body piercings. The prevalence of jewelry allergy increased with the number of piercings. Of those with tattoos, 17% were considering removal but none had had a tattoo removed.
Limitations: This was a self-reported data set with a 33% response rate.
Conclusion: Tattooing and body piercing are associated with risk-taking activities. Body piercing has a high incidence of medical complications.