Everything you always wanted to know about body piercings

Walter van den Broek
May 10, 2010

Do you have a body piercing somewhere? Do you like body piercings? I know of some colleagues who change their hair, the color or size when switching jobs. There’s even a Dutch psychiatrist who thinks that rigorous change of hair style predicts the onset of schizophrenia. More recent is the publication of a review on body piercing and psychopathology.

This systematic review discusses 23 studies on body piercing and psychopathology.

  • Prevalence of body piercings is 6,8% to14% in the general population
  • Among adolescents prevalence is reported between 4,3% and 51%
  • Females are more likely to display body piercings than males
  • The highest rate of body piercings is in the age group of 14-24 years of age
  • Having body piercings is associated with high risk behavior such as alcohol use, smoking and drug use
  • Mixed results have been reported between the correlation of body piercings and high risk sexual behavior, Russian roulette, problematic gambling and eating disorders
  • Personality characteristics of those with body piercings show a higher correlation with antisocial activity in adolescents, impulsiveness and thrill seeking in women, high negative emotionality and low positive emotionality in women and a weak association with body dissatisfaction

So is a body piercing a bad sign?
Nope because most of the research is done in young age groups and adolescents, age groups in which this behavior is more frequent. Moreover, the effect sizes of these studies diminished over time. In more recent studies the effect sizes were very small suggesting that body piercings becoming normal practice instead of a marker of deviance. Some authors even suggest that multiple body piercings are associated with an increased rate of risky behavior while a single body piercing is not a marker of this behavior.

One other factor to be taken into account is the location of the body piercing.

Only 1 study explored BP locations with regard to psychopathology. From a psychological perspective, intimate BPs may deserve special consideration, and it would also appear legitimate to differentiate BP according to the degree of visibility and intimacy.

The authors suggest that general practitioners might screen patients with a body piercing for high risk behavior, and help the patient explore the role of body piercing in their identity.

What do you think?

This post was chosen as an Editor's Selection for ResearchBlogging.org

Bui, E., Rodgers, R., Cailhol, L., Birmes, P., Chabrol, H., & Schmitt, L. (2010). Body Piercing and Psychopathology: A Review of the Literature Psychotherapy and Psychosomatics, 79 (2), 125-129 DOI: 10.1159/000276376


One Response to “Everything you always wanted to know about body piercings”

  1. When you say body piercings are associated with deviant behavior, you should probably give the correlation coefficient. As someone with multiple piercings who doesn’t engage in particularly risky behavior, it’s kind of annoying when someone pigeonholes me as someone who smokes crack or something. It’d be nice to at least have some of the people out there know that maybe it’s not as strongly correlated with risky behavior as they think. Or at least just for me, so I don’t have to pay for an article to see a) what the authors define as risky behavior and b) the correlation coefficient. Nothing shuts up someone who’s trying to categorize someone else like a thorough, well-thought-out explanation.

    But that’s just a presentation thing. Good article.

  2. Sam on May 18th, 2010 at 9:32 pm

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