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 ).
Answers to questions about young adults' knowledge on health risks
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 ). The information came from the body artist (52%), another person (29.3%), reading the informed consent (18.7%).
Answers to questions about young adults' attitudes and practices towards body art
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 ).
Reasons for making a body art. Others include: to emulate a familiar (3.1%); to better integrate in the society (4.5%); to feel better (6.5%), to better health conditions (0.6%); to follow a very important person (2.4%)
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 ).
Level of cleanliness of the place where the body art was carried out.
Sixty-one (13.2%) of the interviewees who underwent body art had had complications after it (Figure ). 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.
Type of complications following the practices of piercing and tattoos.
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).