A study suggests the ritual of body art may serve as emotional therapy for young women who have experienced intense emotional pain. Sociologists at Texas Tech University discovered female college students with multiple tattoos were more likely to have attempted suicide, yet, interestingly, these very same women also reported significantly higher levels of self-esteem. Male students with four or more tattoos were also more likely to have attempted suicide, the researchers say.
With this paradox at work, the researchers explain that tattoos appear to be a credible healing mechanism, with women moving on from a dark period by reclaiming their bodies as their own with art, which then sends their self-esteem through the roof. As Mic has previously reported, this logic — tattoos as a path to self-recovery — is on display with women who get tattoos to cover scars from mastectomies, domestic abuse and self-harm as a way of taking positive ownership of their bodies.
“Just as breast cancer survivors and abuse victims acquire tattoos and piercings to restore physical losses, we think the women in our study may be trying to restore emotional losses with more tattoos,” concluded the researchers.
Source: Koch JR, Roberts AE, Armstrong ML, Owen DC. Tattoos, gender, and well-being among American college students. The Social Science Journal. 2015.