We don’t all like them, but new research shows tattoos could save your life

You either love them or you hate them, but it turns out tattoos might have a purpose other than looking colourful:

You either love them or you hate them, but it turns out tattoos might have a purpose other than looking colourful: they could save your life.

According to a new study published in the American Journal of Human Biology, tattoos actually come with an immune-boosting effect.

14.5 per cent of Australians have at least one tattoo but this new research could mean more people will ave an excuse to get one.


Dr. Christopher Lynn, associate professor of anthropology at the University of Alabama, and colleagues said tattoos could be beneficial to health, helping us to fight off colds and other common infections.

As you may well know, the common flu can be deadly for people over the age of 65, which is why we’re told to have flu injections every year.

The team examined 29 individuals aged 18-47 who were receiving tattoos at one of three tattoo studies in Alabama between May-December 2012.

The team collected saliva samples from participants both before and after their tattooing procedure, which they used to measure levels of immunoglobulin A – an antibody that acts as a first line of defence against common infections – and the stress hormone, cortisol.

The researchers also considered how many tattoos each participant had, how many tattoo sessions they had encountered, the lifetime hours spent receiving a tattoo, how many years it had been since their first tattoo and the percentage of their body that was tattooed.

The team found that participants who were receiving a first tattoo showed a significant reduction in levels of immunoglobulin A, a response to a rise in cortisol that was triggered by the stress and pain of the tattooing, meaning first-timers may get sick initially, before building a tolerance.

“They don’t just hurt while you get the tattoo, but they can exhaust you,” says Dr. Lynn. “It’s easier to get sick. You can catch a cold because your defenses are lowered from the stress of getting a tattoo”.

But another interesting finding was that people who had more tattoos showed less of a reduction in immunoglobulin A levels, meaning your immune system builds resilience every time it’s tattooed.

“After the stress response, your body returns to an equilibrium,” says Dr. Lynn. “However, if you continue to stress your body over and over again, instead of returning to the same set point, it adjusts its internal set points and moves higher”.

Interesting! While we don’t recommend everyone goes out and gets a tattoo, at least we can see now it does have some benefit.

What do you think? Do you have a tattoo? Would you get one?


  1. Ohhh I’ll go out and start adding to my tattoo list. Had one on my 59th birthday everyone said you become addicted to them bull it was so painful I would never want to do that again. But on saying that I love my tat even hubby has started to like it

  2. One jab with a flu shot versus lots of needles and tattooing colours on my skin.. hard choice NOT the flu shot will win every day of the week

  3. 😱😱😱noooo rather take more vitamin C to boost my immune system thanks! I wonder what happened to the research they did about how harmful those chemical dyes are to the nervous system and other systems!

    • I take heaps of vitamin C. My immune sytsem was a bit depressed from working at a chemical warehouse for 15 years. I’m basically OK now, having been away from that harmful environment for the past 19 years. Got all the lead out of my system too, thank God. Those chemical dyes are just different coloured India ink. Not harmful. They tattoo horses’s noses if they’re too pale to prevent them getting sunburnt.

  4. I got my first Tattoo at age 60. I have three now. I want to get a couple more. And, believe it or not, tattooing is not all that painful. If done professionally it is quick and clean. The needles are so fine that you barely feel them. The modern day methods are so different then those of years ago.

    • From 2007 to 2010. After my marriage broke up I went ahead and had done the artwork that’d been in my head and my heart for decades, but I couldn’t get it done while we were together because my wife would’ve looked at them and every single time she did, she’d think “I could have paid a bill with that money”.

    • Arthur Black
      I started getting mine in 2010. The only one I felt a bit of pain with was one on my ankle. The tattooist said that was because we have very little flesh in that area. The one on my wrist and my upper arm were only a feeling of discomfort. I feel more pain getting a blood test done than I do getting a tattoo.

    • Ruth, I had my first tattoo done in memory of my beatiful partner who passed away 14 months ago. Im 66. And yes, Im going to get some more done.

    • John Curlis
      Mine are a rose on my wrist in memory of my father, a butterfly on my ankle in memory of my sister and the Star of David on my upper arm in memory of my grandfather. I now want to get an apricot coloured rose intertwined with the red rose on my wrist in memory of my mother who passed away 6 months ago.
      I figure that at my age, I don’t care what others think.

    • Tattoos are addictive John. Initially I just wanted the arm bands and my guitar on my shoulder. Then that looked lopsided so I got the Celtic Cross on my other shoulder. Then they looked lonesome by themselves so I got a heraldic lion from the Scottish coat of arms, some music-related tattoos. Then below the arm bands I got The Hulk and The Thing. Then my two favorite band, Cream and ZZ Top. Then more medieval stuff, mainly weapons. Then the Scottish flag . . That one’s gotten me into some trouble with idiots but nothing I couldn’t handle. Then brand logs for my gear that I use . . I’m sponsored by Gibson guitars. I thought I was done when I got the big eagle on my chest. Now THAT really hurt bad! But someone took a photo of me at a gig and all I could see were the blank spaces between the tattoos. So I got a bass and treble clef and some music notes done to fill them up. There’s some space on my right shoulder that eventually I’ll fill with a tattoo in memory of my mum who died in 2014 at 93.

    • Good for you, This last year I did a drawing for my daughter in law and her sister that they have had tattooed, I’m very pleaded with them. Soon my daughter and I will be getting one done as well, from another drawing I did. All our first ones. I already have a list, they say it’s hard to stop at one. 🙂

  5. No no no. No way will I ever get a tattoo 😩 I also have a good strong immune system 😝😝

  6. I would hardly call a sample of 29 people a conclusive test, you might as well say I read it in a book somewhere. I would also suggest that people who have throughout their lives received wounds,(like tradesmen) might also show the same variation.

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