Small friendship tattoos are everywhere these days, but many of them are a little creepy.
You might be surprised to learn that some of them might actually help with some pretty important mental health issues.
A new study published in the journal Psychological Science shows that people with tattoos on their bodies are more likely to have anxiety and depression than those without them.
This could have a lot to do with how their tattoos affect their brains, researchers say.
The researchers looked at the data from a national survey of more than 5,000 people, which showed that people who had a tattoo on their body had a higher prevalence of anxiety, depression, and social phobia than those who didn’t.
And the researchers found that people of different races were more likely than people of the same race to have the same issues.
“What we see is a strong correlation between tattoos and some types of psychological distress, which is very interesting,” said lead author and psychology researcher Jennifer Fuchs, a psychology PhD student at UC San Diego.
“We think tattoos could be a tool that we can use to help people with psychological distress in the future.”
Fuchs and her colleagues examined data from the 2013 and 2014 American Psychiatric Association Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.
The survey included questions on tattoos and psychological distress.
They looked at people who reported having tattoos on a regular basis and asked them to report how often they had anxiety or depression, the most common mental health conditions among the people who hadn’t had tattoos.
They also looked at whether those people reported having either social phobic or empathic fears.
“The results show that people have higher levels of anxiety and depressive symptoms when they have tattoos,” Fuchs said.
“And they are also more likely when they get anxiety or depressive symptoms to report having social phobias.”
Social phobia is a fear of others’ physical body, often manifested as body-related fear or avoidance of people with physical disabilities.
Empathic fear is a feeling of loss or resentment that arises from a lack of connection with someone’s feelings.
“Empathic fear can be an emotional reaction to someone being unable to relate to you,” Fuch said.
“For example, someone who has a fear that you’ll have a heart attack because they’re too hot.
Or someone who’s afraid they’ll have cancer because they haven’t had a proper check-up in a while.”
The researchers also found that those with social phobs reported more anxiety and more depression than their non-tattooed peers.
The study was part of the Psychological Science project “Cognition, Emotion, and Social Cognition,” which included the University of California at San Diego’s Department of Psychology and the University at Buffalo.