Why Do People Get Tattoos? Explore The Psychology Behind It

To each their own tattoo. Let us find out why each of us might prefer a different one!

Reviewed by Scott Terry, Professional Tattoo Artist Scott Terry Scott TerryProfessional Tattoo Artist facebook_iconlinkedin_iconinsta_icon
Written by , BA (English Hons) Pahul Nanra BA (English Hons) linkedin_icon Experience: 2 years
Edited by , MA (English) Subhrojyoti Mukherjee MA (English) linkedin_icon Experience: 4 years
Fact-checked by , MSc Manjari Uppal MSc linkedin_icon Experience: 3 years
Last Updated on

The question of why do people get tattoos does not have a single answer. Tattoos have been around for as long as we can remember. Some of the earliest tattoos were found on two Egyptian mummies and date back to 3017 and 3351 BCE. Traditional body art is more than just ink on the skin. Individuals get visible tattoos for a multitude of reasons, each telling a unique story. At its core, tattooing is a form of self-expression that allows people to visually communicate their passion, emotions, beliefs, opinions, and life experiences on their skin. The practice of tattooing has been celebrated and accepted across cultures and rituals. While it has also been perceived negatively and considered a cultural taboo, it has now become a popular art as perceptions around tattoos have evolved. This article will delve deep into why people get tattoos and attempt to unpack the reasons behind popular body modifications. So, without further ado, let us jump in!

Why Do People Get Tattoos?

A tattoo artist inking a client’s forearm.
Image: Shutterstock

Tattoos are a timeless form of personal expression, one of the major reasons why people get tattoos. The popularity of tattoos has skyrocketed in contemporary times, making it a part of mainstream culture. The meaning of tattoos can indeed vary a lot. Whether they are used to commemorate milestones and long-term relationships, honor loved ones, embrace individuality, or are done for sexual motivation, tattoos offer a meaningful way for people to showcase their identity and convey themselves visually. At times, tattoos can also be a result of drunken impulsiveness. However, let us look at some of the common reasons below:

  • Self-Expression: Tattoos serve as a unique way to convey personal identity, beliefs, and values. They help individuals in openly expressing themselves and communicating their thoughts.
  • Cultural Reasons: Tattoos hold cultural meanings, thus connecting individuals to their heritage and background.
  • Conveying Individuality: People use tattoos to stand out and embrace their individuality in a visually artistic way.
  • Making A Fashion Statement: Many get inked to reflect the current styles, considering tattoos as a fashion accessory. This is common amongst top fashion models and influencers.
  • Emotional Healing: The process of getting a tattoo can help some individuals cope with their emotions and mental health. And, is a common practice of self love amongst individuals with self-injurious behavior.
protip_icon Trivia
Gregory Paul McLaren, popularly known as Lucky Diamond Rich has 99.99% of his body tattooed and holds the Guinness World Record for the most tattoos. Lucky has said on record that he does not regret any of them.

Riezl Perez, a blogger, talked about her experience of getting tattoos and the numerous reasons behind it. She recalled in one of her posts, “I had my first tattoo, August 2015. I’m really having a hard time getting back because I got ghosted (i).” She further shares, “This tattoo is on my right foot. “FAITH” means to “Have faith in God.” Also, it is my best friend’s name, and it has three birds beside it which means “love well, pray often, give thanks.”

While we have covered some of the common reasons, we do not know what exactly goes on in the psyche of an individual when they decide on getting inked. Let us try to understand this better in the section below.

Psychological Reasons Why People Get Tattoos

A muscular man shows off a full sleeve tattoo on one of his arms.
Image: Shutterstock

Tattoos often serve as a psychological outlet, providing individuals with a sense of empowerment and control over their bodies. Tattoos may help some people navigate and process emotions, express identity, and also boost self-esteem and overall attitude. In many cases, people after surgeries and cancer treatments can be seen tattooing over their scars in an attempt to beautify the marks and increase their self-confidence. Numerous survivors of domestic abuse also use tattoos for their emotional recovery and a way of reclaiming control over their bodies.

protip_icon Trivia
Dating back to 2000 BC, Egyptian and Nubian women were often adorned with tattoos. These tattoos were linked to the concept of fertility and symbolized sex, love, and even music.

Have you ever wondered how many adults with tattoos are out there and what total percentage it comes to? If yes, then the next section has some news for you.

What Percentage Of People Have Tattoos?

A woman with a rose tattoo on her back.
Image: Shutterstock

While it is difficult to exactly put a finger on it, a recent survey performed by the Pew Research Center revealed that 32 percent of Americans have inked their bodies. Out of them, 22 percent have more than one tattoo. The prevalence of tattoos among men is 27 percent, while it is 38 percent among women. 41 percent of people with tattoos are below the age of 30.

The motivations behind getting beautiful tattoos are as diverse as the inked designs themselves. There are numerous common forms of tattoos that have become popular across the globe, from non-verbal language designs, blackwork styles, neo-traditional forms, tribal tattoos to memorial tattoos. While the appeal of tattoos is one thing, the traditional art goes beyond body adornment. It encapsulates personal narratives, one’s beliefs, opinions, experiences, and the life diary of an individual. Whether it is a means of self-expression, fashion statement, therapeutic outlet, and cultural homage, tattoos empower individuals to take ownership of their bodies and communicate their stories with the world. Though tattoos can still give a negative impression and their permanent nature may not seem appealing, many people get inked when they want a lasting mark on their skin and to share their experiences. Each aesthetic creation symbolizes a part of their individuality and self-discovery. After reading this article, we hope you will be surer of yourself before booking your next tattoo appointment!

Frequently Asked Questions

Do people get tattoos for spiritual or religious reasons?

Yes, many individuals get tattoos due to spiritual traditions and for religious reasons, symbolizing their faith and beliefs. They often get sacred and spiritual elements tattooed on their bodies.

How has the perception of tattoos changed over time?

Over time, the perception of tattoos has shifted from a social stigma to a widely accepted form of art. While it was once associated with rebellion, tattoos are now viewed as personal expression, cultural symbol, and individuality. This transformation is simply due to evolving attitudes of people.

3. What impact does societal acceptance have on the decision to get a tattoo?

The current society with its modern perspective and growing societal acceptance has empowered individuals to get more tattoos without the fear of judgment.

Are there specific symbols or images that are commonly chosen for tattoos?

Some common tattoo choices include symbols and designs like anchors for stability, hearts symbolizing love, and birds for freedom. Many religious symbols like a ying-yang and a cross are also popular.

Key Takeaways

  • People commonly get tattoos for personal expression, fashion trends, cultural homage, and commemorating milestones.
  • Psychological reasons, such as, navigating emotions, and increasing self-esteem, and reconciling body image issues play a role behind getting a tattoo.
  • 32 percent of U.S citizens have a tattoo on their body, including 22 percent who have more than one tattoo.
  • Many people get tattoos for religious reasons and as a way to symbolize their beliefs and spirituality.
why do people get tattoos

Image: Stable Diffusion/StyleCraze Design Team

The following YouTube video attempts to answer, ‘Why do people get tattoos?’ and may help you arrive at a better understanding. Click on the link to know more!

Personal Experience: Source

Was this article helpful?
Scott Terry
Scott TerryProfessional Tattoo Artist
Scott Terry is a distinguished tattoo artist and has over 20 years of experience in the field. He specializes in color and black-and-gray realism. Scott graduated from the Joe Blasco School of Professional Makeup Artistry.

Read full bio of Scott Terry