This has to be one of the most ridiculous “studies” I have ever read about. I am basing this commentary on the limited information I was able to find on this study, but have not been able to find a complete write-up.
Alcohol tests performed on nearly 2,000 young men and women frequenting bars in the west of France showed a strong correlation between body art and drinking, they said.
From the data given I cannot find anything that would qualify as a “strong correlation” between body art and drinking.
- Of 1,081 men interviewed, 903 had no body art and an average measure of 0.18 milligrams of alcohol per litre of exhaled air, lower than France’s 0.25 drink driving limit.
- The figure increased to 0.19 in the 98 men with tattoos, 0.23 percent for the 53 men with piercings, and 0.26 for the 27 men with both.
- Of the 884 women, 537 had no body art and an average alcohol measure of 0.12, which rose to 0.14 for the 124 with tattoos, 0.20 for the 138 with piercings, and 0.24 for the 85 women with both tattoos and piercings.
This so-called study was conducted in bars on Saturday nights in France. So, they were not studying the general population, but only the people who were already at bars drinking. But for arguments sake, let’s just pretend for a moment that the sampling was fair.
Out of 1081 men, only 98 of them had tattoos. Out of these 98, their measured blood alcohol level was 0.01 higher than the men without tattoos. 98 out of 1081 is only 9%. How is 9% of the studied group supposed to be an accurate representation of people with tattoos? The other thing to note is that 0.01 is within the margin of error of most breathalyzer machines, which makes this finding statistically insignificant just by means of the measurement error.
Even if the measurements were perfect and blood was drawn from each of the participants, a difference of 0.01 is the equivalent to a fraction of a single drink.
The 0.23 and 0.26 seem much more significant in comparison, but let’s take a look at what that really means. For a 180 lb. man, it would take approximately 8 drinks in an hour to reach a 0.18 blood alcohol level. In order to reach 0.23, it would take around 10. I would consider someone who has 8 drinks in a night to be drinking pretty heavily already and certainly wouldn’t conclude that someone who had 10 drinks was a significantly heavier drinker.
The number of men with both tattoos and piercings (27 total) is so small that all it would take was 1 or 2 really drunk people to significantly skew the average.
The group of 900 guys with no body art have strength in numbers which would easily hide a few people who fell outside of the norm. With a sampling of only 53 or 27, that luxury doesn’t exist. I really don’t think it’s a coincidence that the measured blood alcohol level steadily increases as the sample size shrinks. This was true for both the men’s and women’s groups.
The other huge red flag in this study for me is the percentage of people who were found to have tattoos. Only 9% of men and 14% of women surveyed had tattoos. I was unable to find any tattoo statistics for France, but these numbers sound low to me when recent surveys in the US found 22% of people in the 18-24 year age range had at least 1 tattoo. That number jumps to 30% for those aged 25-29 and 38% for 30 to 39 year olds.
If tattooed people are not being represented in proper proportion, I can conclude that more people with body art are staying home from bars on Saturday night and may not be drinking at all. This is why it is so important to make sure the people involved in a study are a good representation of the general population. If I hung around a tattoo shop for a few days and interviewed 1000 people, I would probably come to the conclusion that 99% of people had tattoos. Yet if I conducted that same survey in a high end salon, the results would be vastly different.
There was also no mention of whether body weight was taken into account during the study. Blood alcohol level alone does not tell how many drinks a person has had. Depending on weight, a guy who has 5 drinks over the course of an hour can have a blood alcohol level anywhere between 0.22 for the real lightweights and 0.09 for those weighing in at 240 lbs. Since people seem to believe that everyone with tattoos is completely narcissistic, perhaps it’s safe to assume that people with tattoos take better care of their bodies and weigh less than non-tattooed people. A difference in average weight could easily account for the varying levels of alcohol found in this study.
I think everyone gets the point by now. No matter what angle I look at it from, this study is absolute garbage. But the biggest problem I have with this whole thing doesn’t have anything to do with the study at all. It’s the media attention that is really bothering me.
‘People with Tattoos Tend to Drink More’
‘Tattoos and piercings could be potential ‘markers’ of drinking’
‘Body Art Equals Increased Alcohol Use: Study’
‘People with Tattoos Drink More’
‘Tattoo and Alcohol Behaviour Linked’
‘People with tattoos drink more alcohol than their friends, say researchers’
‘Sporting a Tattoo Means That You Might Be a Heavy Drinker’
‘Tattooed, Pierced and Plastered’
Those were just a few of the many headlines used to promote this study. These sensationalized and blunt headlines are there to grab our attention, but very few people will take the time to actually read about the study and will reach a conclusion based on the headline alone. They will probably walk away thinking that all tattooed people are alcoholics. Even worse than the headlines themselves is the fact that a majority of the articles I read did not even include the data from the study, just the conclusions and some very basic information.
The Daily Mail went one step further and only printed the stats that made things sound even worse than they are. First, the headline of the article was condescending and obnoxious, “From the university of the blindingly obvious: Young adults with tattoos and piercings ‘are heavier drinkers’”
Then they post this gem in the middle of the article.
The team found men with no body art had an average of 0.18mg of alcohol per litre of exhaled air. Men with both piercings and tattoos had a reading of 0.26mg.
While it is accurate, the lack of information is very misleading and was probably done intentionally. Why was there no mention the minuscule sample size of this group? Or the fact that the tattooed group was statistically equal to those with no body art. The author of the article chose to print the few bits and pieces of the study that make the situation sound far worse than it really is. To Claire Bates, the author of this Daily Mail article, you should be ashamed of yourself if you call this journalism.
Aren’t there enough stereotypes about tattooed people to go around already? Printing headlines like this and not even including the data from the study is just adding fuel to the fire and I question the journalistic integrity of any author who does so. If you are going to write a commentary on a study like this, please do us all a favor and actually read the study. Take a few minutes to think about what you are writing and don’t just blindly accept the conclusions given without even glancing at the data.
I think I need a drink now.