MaltaToday Survey | Tattoos: Women want them on their legs, men on their arms

The first MaltaToday survey focused exclusively on tattoos shows greater social acceptance and reveals differences between men and women. KURT SANSONE reports

The number of people with inked bodies has remained unchanged in four years, despite a proliferation of tattoo parlours, a MaltaToday survey has found.

The survey, which is the first to focus exclusively on tattoos, found that 15% of people admitted to having a tattoo.

The figure has not changed since 2015 when a MaltaToday survey on fitness and looks also asked whether respondents had a tattoo.

In the latest survey, 13.6% of women and 16.5% of men said they had a tattoo, with the survey showing some marked differences between the preferences of both sexes.

The survey also suggests that tattoos are more socially acceptable with only 1.6% of those with inked bodies admitting to having experienced problems because of their tattoos.

And in the wake of the summer frenzy caused by the appearance of a tattoo on Prime Minister Joseph Muscat’s bicep, 52.8% of people said it was acceptable for them to have politicians and public officials with visible tattoos. However, for 40.6% of the population visible tattoos on public officials were unacceptable.

The survey provided some insight into the different preferences of women and men.

Women prefer to have tattoos on their legs (40.4%) and back (26.4%), while the overwhelming choice for men is their arms (68.1%).

Women are also more likely to have tattoos in discrete parts of the body, other than those indicated by the survey question. Of the female respondents, 12.7% said they had a tattoo other than on their arms, back, chest, legs and from the neck up.

On the flipside, only 1.4% of men admitted having a tattoo on some other body part.

But overall, arms were the preferred option of 43.4% of people with a tattoo, followed by the legs (27.9%). The head, neck and face – considered to be sensitive areas because of their inescapable visibility – were the preferred choice of 4%.

Women are also more likely to have fewer tattoos than men. Overall, 78.4% of people with a tattoo had between one and three, followed by 15.8% who admitted having between four and seven tattoos. Only 5.8% said they had more than seven tattoos.

However, when the figures are broken down by gender, only 1.8% of women said they had more than seven tattoos, as opposed to 9.1% of men.

Significantly, 14.9% of people with a tattoo spent more than €1,000 to ink their body and a quarter spent between €51 and €100.

Only 10.8% regret making a tattoo with women more likely than men to have second thoughts about their ink.

Almost eight in 10 people who do not have a tattoo either do not like them or were never interested in them. But 16.1% of people admitted liking tattoos but never got one because they fear the permanency.

A few regrets, no problems and some rejection

Tattoos elicit mixed reactions but the MaltaToday survey has revealed that the vast majority of those without a tattoo find no issue with those who have one.

Asked whether people with a tattoo bother them, 81.7% of those who do not have ink on their body, answered No. The strong agreeable reaction was reflected across all age groups, although significantly less pronounced among those aged over 65.

As expected, among the younger generations, sporting a tattoo is of no concern. 95.3% of those between 18 and 35 said they were not bothered by tattooed people.

Among the elderly, 59% said they had no issue with people who had a tattoo, the lowest agreeable response rate.

There was no pronounced difference across the regions, either, and while tattoos were agreeable among 89.8% of those with a tertiary education, the figure dropped to 65.9% among those with a primary level of education.

But this strong sense of acceptance of tattoos among people who do not have one, was also reflected in the responses given by those who admitted to having one.

When asked whether they ever experienced problems as a result of their tattoos, only 1.6% said Yes.

This suggests that any regrets on tattoos people may have, are not necessarily the result of social problems caused by ink.

The survey found that 10.8% regretted having a tattoo at some point in their life. Regret was more pronounced among women (16.4%), people aged between 18 and 35 (13.5%), and those with a secondary level of education (16%).

However, the overall impression that tattoos are not a problem was slightly dampened by the closer margin obtained when all people were asked whether it was acceptable for politicians and public officials to have visible tattoos.

Visible tattoos on politicians, a problem for the elderly

The question was prompted by the furore over the summer months when it was inadvertently revealed that Prime Minister Joseph Muscat had gotten a tattoo on his right bicep with what appeared to be the word, Invictus.

The story elicited a widespread ‘so what’ reaction, although some questioned Muscat’s choice of word.

The survey result does appear to confirm the general feeling, since 52.8% of people had no issue with politicians and public officials having visible tattoos – Muscat’s tattoo was not exactly visible but a glimpse of it showed up under his short sleeve in a photo distributed by the Labour Party.

However, the result was not as strong as the other agreeable responses on people’s perceptions of tattoos.
A strong 40.6% said it was unacceptable for them to have public officials sporting visible tattoos.

The largest negative response to tattooed public officials was among those aged over 51. In the 51-65 category, an absolute majority of 51.8% did not find visible tattoos acceptable, while an even stronger majority (56.1%) was registered among those older than 65.

A negative majority was also registered among those with a primary education.

Ink and spending

People with tattoos often argue that their very first tattoo was probably the hardest to get but also the one that wet their appetite for more.

Whether individuals do follow through with getting more tattoos throughout their life depends on many factors, not least affordability.

It is only 9.3% of people with a tattoo who said they spent up to €50 on their tattoos, a price range that will probably get you the name of your loved one.

By contrast, 25.9% have spent between €51 and €100, while 24.8% have spent between €201 and €500. Another large cohort (20.5%) admitted spending between €101 and €200 on their tattoos.

There is a sizeable group of 14.9% who have spent more than €1,000 to get their tattoos, a scenario that is plausible the more elaborate and artistic the tattoos get.

Men fell predominantly within the higher spending brackets with 20.6% having spent more than €1,000. A third of males, the largest cohort, spent between €201 and €500.

On the flipside, only 7.9% of women spent more than €1,000 and a third, the largest cohort, spent between €51 and €100 on their tattoos.

The South-Eastern region had the highest concentration of people falling within the highest spending bracket. The results showed that 36% of people with a tattoo, who lived in the region spent more than €1,000.

They were followed by tattooed people living in the Northern region, where 28.8% surpassed the €1,000 mark.

The MaltaToday survey also found that the vast majority of people with tattoos (78.4%), had between one and three tattoos.

15.8% of respondents who admitted having a tattoo sported between four and seven tattoos, while 5.8% said they had more than seven.

Only 1.8% of women had more than seven tattoos, which contrasts with the 9.1% of males who fell within this category.

In line with the spending trend, people having more than seven tattoos were found in the Northern and South-Eastern regions.


The survey was carried out between 28 August and 4 September. 653 respondents opted to complete the survey. Stratified random sampling based on gender, region and age was used to replicate the Maltese demographics. The estimated margin of error is 5% for a confidence interval of 95%. Demographic and sub-group breakdowns have a larger margin of error.