Of the 1.656 enrolled freshmen, 1.598 returned a correctly filled out questionnaire (96.5%) and were considered for the analysis: 33.8% came from humanistic, 33.1% from healthcare and 33.1% from the scientific faculties.
Of the 1.598, 508 (31.8%) were male and 1.090 (68.2%) were female. The average age of participants was 20.15 years (range 17-58; SD = ±3.4); considering that in Italy the usual university freshmen age group ranges between 17-19 years, 62.7% (1.002/1.598) fell into this range. Of the students included in the analysis, 332 (20.8%) declared that they live in one of Apulia's five main towns (Bari, Brindisi, Lecce, Taranto, Foggia), while 1.266 (79.2%) lived in smaller municipalities. With regard to the profession of the father, the sample showed the following distribution: 60 (3.8%) unemployed, 442 (27.7%) low/unskilled worker, 667 (41.7%) semi-skilled, 429 (26.8%) skilled. With regard to the mother's occupations, the sample showed the following distribution: 112 (7.0%) unemployed, 870 (54.4%) low/unskilled worker, 513 (32.1%) semi-skilled, 103 (6.4%) skilled.
Of the 1.598 included in the analysis, 78.3% believe it is risky to undergo piercing/tattoo practices, 12.3% consider it not risky to undergo these practices and 9.4% don't know if it is risky or not (Table 1).
In particular, with regard to infectious diseases, AIDS is indicated as possible infection by 60.3% of the whole sample included in the analysis (52.6%, 58.4% and 69.9% of the freshmen coming from humanistic, scientific and healthcare faculties respectively), hepatitis C by 38.2% (27.4%, 39.5% and 47.8% from humanistic, scientific and healthcare faculties respectively), tetanus by 34.3% (32.0%, 31.8% and 39.1% from humanistic, scientific and healthcare faculties respectively) and hepatitis B by 33.7% (23.5%, 32.7%, 45.0% from humanistic, scientific and healthcare faculties respectively).
Significant differences were showed in the data distribution when comparing freshmen from healthcare faculties vs those from the other two sectors: AIDS (χ2 = 30.4; p < 0.001), hepatitis C (χ2 = 30.61; p < 0.001), hepatitis B (χ2 = 72.75; p < 0.001), tetanus (χ2 = 7.90 p < 0.01).
Furthermore, 28.1% of the 1.598 freshmen were not aware that there are also non-infectious complications (allergies, scars, bleeding, etc.).
Of the 1.598 sample, 1.416 (88.6%) stated that the piercing is not a permanent practice and among those 92.1% think that the elimination of the piercing from the site of insertion leads to spontaneous closure of the insertion.
Of the 1.598 sample, 1.395 (87.3%) stated that it is possible to remove the tattoo, among those 59.9% by surgery (including laser surgery), 34.8% by subcutaneous aspiration of the ink, 5.2% by subcutaneous washing.
Of the 1.598 freshmen, 463 (29%) have at least one piercing or tattoo. Of those, 101 were male (21.8%) and 362 were female (78.2%) with a proportion M/F of 1:3.6. The difference between male (101 with body art/508 total male) and female (362 with body art/1090 total female) was statistically significant. (χ2 = 29.27; p < 0.001).
Of the 463 young adults who underwent body art, 96 freshmen (20.7%) confirmed that they have both piercing and tattoos.
Young adults belonging to humanistic faculties are more inclined than those belonging to healthcare and scientific faculties to undergo body art (χ2 = 19.67; p < 0.001); in particular 195/540 (36.1%) freshmen from humanistic faculties underwent body art vs 136/529 (25.7%) freshmen from the healthcare faculties and 132/529 (25%) from the scientific faculties.
74% of freshmen having body art were informed about the risks related to such practices before doing it (Table 2). The information came from the body artist (52%), another person (29.3%), reading the informed consent (18.7%).
The decision to undergo body art was taken autonomously in 57.9% and asking the advice of someone in 42.1%. 56.3% of freshmen undergoing body art took less than a month to decide, 22.5% one to six months, 21.2% more than six months. With regard to the reasons that led the sample to undergo body art: to improve their aesthetic aspect (23.8%), to distinguish themselves from others (18.4%), for fashion (12.3%); 17.1% for other reasons; 28.4% of the interviewed was unable to give a reason (Figure 1).
With regard to the site carrying out the body art, 71.9% claimed they presented themselves to an authorized centre, 13% to a beautician, 7.1% to the cheapest place, 4.2% to a walking (street) artist, 3.9% declared they had performed the body art by themselves at home or at someone's house. In addition, 88.7% of the 463 who underwent body art stated that the instruments used were sterile and/or disposable and that the place was very clean (57.3%) (Figure 2).
Sixty-one (13.2%) of the interviewees who underwent body art had had complications after it (Figure 3). Of the 61 who had experienced complications, 8 (13.1%) declared that they had had several symptoms at the same time. Furthermore, 9.2% of those who chose an authorized centre also had complications.
Of the 1.598 included in the analysis, 406 subjects (25.4%) declared that they have a piercing. Of the 406 pierced people, 324 were female (79.8%) and 82 were male (20.2%), with a ratio M/F 1:4.0. The difference between male and female was statistically significant (χ2 = 33.02; p < 0.001). A written informed consent, before the piercing, was required in 68/406 (16.8%).
The mean age at the first piercing was 15.3 years (range 10-27; SD ± 2.9). Of the 406 pierced freshmen, 314 (77.3%) did the piercing when they were underage (<18 years), and of those 214 (68.2%) informed their parents before the practice.
The mean number of piercings per pierced participant was 2.1 (range 1-16; SD ± 2.0). In particular, 54.6% of the 406 pierced freshmen confirmed they had only one, 24% two, 11.7% more than three, 9.6% three. There were no significant sex differences in the average number of piercings per person (p = 0.79). In addition, 84.3% decided to place the piercing on the head (including face, scalp and neck), 9.4% on the trunk and 6.3% on the limbs.
Among the interviewed who have stated that they have never had a piercing (74.6%), to the question "Would you consider it in the future?" 20.9% answered "yes", 13.7% "don't know", and 65.3% "no". A significant difference resulted between males and females: females showed a higher interest than males in a future piercing (χ2 = 16.10, p < 0.001).
Considering the variable of residence, of the 332 coming from main towns 168 (50.6%) had at least one piercing, while of the 1266 people coming from smaller municipalities 238 (18.8%) had at least one piercing. Those who live in one of Apulia's five main towns are more inclined than those who live in smaller municipalities to undergo piercing (χ2 = 140.37; p < 0.001).
The occupation of both mother and father does not affect the practice of piercing (father χ2 = 4.83; p = 0.18 - mother χ2 = 0.19; p = 0.98).
Of the 1.598 sample, 153 freshmen (9.6%) declared that they have a tattoo. Of these 107 were female (69.9%) and 46 were male (30.1%), with a ratio M/F of 1:2.3. The difference between male and female was not statistically significant (χ2 = 0.10; p > 0.05). A written informed consent, before the tattoo, was required in 48/153 (31.3%).
The average age for the first tattoo was 17.5 years (range 10-26, SD ± 2.4). Of the 153 tattooed freshmen, 61 (39.9%) had the tattooing when they were still underage, and of those 39 (63.9%) informed their parents before the practice. The average number of tattoos per tattooed participant was 1.8 (range 1-17, SD ± 1.92). In particular, among the 153 freshmen admitted having a tattoo, 61.2% had only one, 23% two, 9.2% three, 6.7% more than three. There were no significant sex differences in the average number of tattoos (p = 0.11). In addition, 48.9% decided to place the tattoo on the limbs, 35.2% on the trunk and 15.9% on the head.
Among those who stated that they had never had a tattoo (90.4%), to the question "Would you consider it in the future?", 36.3% answered "yes", 18.6% "I do not know", and 45.1% "no". There was no significant difference between males and females with respect to interest in acquiring tattoos in the future: females did not show a higher interest than males in the future tattooing practice (male 156/306; female 369/614; χ2 = 1.93 - p > 0.05).
Considering the variable of residence, of the 332 coming from main towns 70 (21.7%) had at least one tattoo, while of the 1.266 people coming from smaller municipalities 83 (6.6%) had at least one tattoo. Those who live in one of Apulia's five main towns are more inclined than those who live in smaller municipalities to undergo tattooing (χ2 = 64.12 - p < 0.001). The occupation of both mother and father does not affect the practice of tattoos (father χ2 = 0.55; p = 0.91 - mother χ2 = 3.85; p = 0.28).
Student's t-test showed that average age for the first tattoo was significantly higher than the average age for the first piercing, even if the Cohen's d test indicated a large effect size (t = 8.4, p < 0.001; Cohen's d = 0.93).