According to the survey of 10,503 adults aged 16 and over, a quarter have experienced complications and one in every 100 resulted in a hospital admission.
The study, carried out by public health doctors from the Health Protection Agency and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine found women are three times more likely to have a body piercing than men.
The most popular piercing site is the navel (33%) followed by the nose (19%), ear (13%), nipple (9%), eyebrow (8%), lip (4%) and genital (2%). Body piercing was also more common in younger age groups.
Authors wrote: ‘Problems are common and the assistance of health services is often required. Though serious complications requiring admission to hospital seem uncommon, the popularity of the practice might place a substantial burden on health services.’