Sorry mom: getting lots of tattoos could have surprising health benefits

Sorry mom: getting lots of tattoos could have surprising health benefits

CultureMarch 15, 2016 By Simon Berger

The millennial generation paved the way for a plethora of culturally significant breakthroughs over the years: relaxed workplace environments, Adderall induced study sessions and a general sense of entitlement dubbed independence. All of which are great, but there’s another phenomena happening among the millennials helping bridge the gap between the old and the new, the conservative and the liberal. It’s called tattoos.

Everyone’s favorite judgmental talking point forces bosses to question office work attire while elders question what happened to the cute, adorable generation they once bounced on their knees. Beyond the conflagration of class and generational differences, tattoos rode the Adderall-laden path of the millennials to become a rebellious cultural archetype ranking alongside fast casual and Scion. But not only are tattoos cooler than cool, they’re also a signal of great health.

A new study published in one of the many sweet journals around the country lays claim that individuals who have multiple tattoos are found to have stronger immune systems than someone who has, say, one tattoo.

Harnessing the collective power of young individuals with either multiple tattoos or looking to get tattoos, the researchers measured the amount of Immunoglobulin A in the blood system.

“Immunoglobulin A is a front line of defense against some of the common infections we encounter, like colds,” Christopher Lynn, an associate professor of anthropology at the University of Alabama who co-authored the study, wrote in a press release.

Research showed that Immunoglobulin A levels for first-time tattoo receivers declined significantly compared to particpants who had multiple tattoos, suggesting that people with more tattoos had immune systems habituated to that kind of stress.

Lynn compares the body's response to getting a tattoo for the first time to an out-of-shape person exercising in the gym: Muscles are sore at first, but the pain fades with repeated workouts.

“After the stress response, your body returns to an equilibrium,” Lynn said. “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.”

Don’t run to get a tattoo just yet in order to boost your immunity. The academia and medical community quickly began discounting the findings for myriad reasons, one of which argued Immunoglobulin A is one of many factors that constitute immune system strength.  Not to mention, if a participant has a healthy response to their first tattoo they’re more than likely to get more tattoos where as a bad reaction deters an individual from getting more.
The study points out that historically, tattoos appeared to be a way for healthy, "attractive" people to differentiate themselves from less-healthy peers, and that could still be the case -- multiple tattoos mean you can handle the pain.”

Nonetheless, Lynn believes the study opens the proverbial door for the possibility of delivering vaccines in a similar way to getting tattoos.

"There is ... evidence suggesting that applying a vaccine with a tattoo approach -- several small punctures, not one big shot -- may increase the effectiveness," Lynn said.

Telling a kid they’re getting a tattoo instead of a shot should make them feel much better about their prospects. Then again, a sick dinosaur tattoo as a kid would be one hell of an incentive.

Photo Credit: Jan Persson