A huge increase in people getting tattoos has been blamed for a massive decline in new blood donors.
Foreign travel to exotic places and people living busier lives are also thought to be reasons why there are 40% fewer new people giving blood compared to a decade ago.
Guidelines mean that anyone who has had a tattoo or piercing in the previous four months or travelled to certain countries in the last six cannot give blood.
NHS Blood and Transplant has launched a Missing A Type campaign this year in a bid to recruit the 204,000 new volunteer donors needed to ensure that blood stocks continue to remain at a safe level.
It said 120,000 fewer people attended a donor session to start donating blood in 2014/15 compared to 2004/5.
It found a number of misconceptions still exist, with almost half (48%) of those who responded to a survey thinking that friends and family are asked to donate when a patient needs blood.
More than one in 10 (13%) think that synthetic blood is created to meet the national demand, it found.
The top three reasons for not giving blood were a fear of needles (22%), not getting around to it (27%) and health problems meaning people do not believe they are eligible to donate (21%).
Jon Latham, assistant director for donor services and marketing at NHS Blood and Transplant, said giving blood could be a matter of life or death for those who need it.
“If we don’t attract new people across England and North Wales to donate it will put more pressure on the ability to provide the right type of blood the NHS needs for patients in the future,” he said.
“We know that people’s lives have got busier over the last decade. People are working longer hours, commuting further, spending more time online and have less time of their own, despite more options of how to use it.
“Good causes are also competing increasingly for people’s attention and time.
“Travel to more exotic places, tattoos and investigations such as endoscopy are becoming more common and these lead to short-term deferrals from donation.
“These are just some of the reasons why we’ve seen a decline in new people starting to donate.”
The survey conducted by Populus saw more than 2,000 adults questioned last month.