Body art, by the numbers

There are many reasons people choose to get permanent body ink. Today’s culture carries a lot of lore in association to tattoos.  A recent Harris Poll looks at the number of Americans who currently have tattoos, and what those tattoos may say about them.

Currently, one in five U.S. adults has at least one tattoo, which is up from the 16 percent and 14 percent who reported having a tattoo when this question was asked in 2003 and 2008, according to a poll conducted by Harris Interactive. Yet, more than two in five say adults with tattoos are less attractive.

In 2008, almost three in 10 adults said that people with tattoos are more likely to do something most people consider deviant. Today, the percentage of people with these preconceived notions has dropped to 24 percent, as opposed to the 29 percent in 2008.

Tattoos seem to be most prevalent in the West—26 percent of adults in that region report having at least one—compared to fewer in the East (21 percent), Midwest (21 percent) and South (18 percent).  Adults aged 30-39 are most likely to have a tattoo (38 percent) compared to both those younger (30 percent of those 25-29 and 22 percent of those 18-24) and older (27 percent of those 40-49, 11 percent of those 50-64 and just 5 percent of those 65 and older).

However, among those without tattoos, the opinions differ:

• At least two in five say that people with tattoos are less attractive (45 percent) or sexy (39 percent);

• One-quarter say that people with tattoos are less intelligent (27 percent), healthy (25 percent) or spiritual (25 percent);

• However, having a tattoo seems to make little difference in non-tattooed people’s perceptions regarding strength and athleticism (82 percent say it makes no difference); yet,

• Half of those without a tattoo say people with tattoos are more rebellious (50 percent).

According to the American Society of Dermatological Surgery in 2005, of all the people treated with laser and light therapy, only 6 percent are getting a tattoo removed.

A 2006 a study done by the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology found that 24 percent of Americans between 18 and 50 are tattooed; that’s almost one in four. The survey also showed that about 36 percent of Americans ages 18 to 29 have at least one tattoo.

And for those who think tattoos are just for sailors, think again. Reported on Reuters, a new poll has shown that tattooed women outnumber men. The TV network behind the show “Best Ink” and Lightspeed Research asked more than 1,000 people across the U.S. about their perceptions of body art, and it turned out that 59 percent of women have tattoos compared to 41 percent of men.

There are around 20,000 parlors operating in the U.S., according to a U.S. News & World Report article. The article ranked tattooing as the sixth fastest growing retail venture of the 1990s, right behind Internet, paging services, bagels, computer and cellular phone service.

The tattoo industry has rapidly spawned popular growth. The popularity of tattoos shows the diminishing percentage of those who believe them to be a taboo.