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Majority found willing to consider cosmetic surgery

Oct. 28, 2007
Courtesy UCLA
and World Science staff

Most wom­en and many men say they’re at least pos­sibly in­ter­ested in cos­met­ic sur­gery, ac­cord­ing to a re­port.

For­ty-eight per­cent wom­en sur­veyed said they would be in­ter­est­ed in cos­met­ic sur­gery, li­po­suc­tion or both; an­oth­er 23 per­cent said they would pos­sibly be in­ter­est­ed, ac­cord­ing to the stu­dy. Among men, 23 per­cent said they would be in­ter­est­ed, with 17 per­cent ex­press­ing pos­sible in­ter­est. 

Seventy-one per­cent of wom­en and 40 per­cent of men re­ported be­ing at least pos­si­bly in­ter­est­ed in plas­tic sur­gery. (Im­age cour­te­sy Nat'l Inst. of Health)


The appeal of cos­metic pro­ce­dures “is far more wide­spread than we had an­ti­cipat­ed,” said Da­vid Fred­er­ick, a psy­chol­o­gy grad­u­ate stu­dent at the Un­ivers­ity of Cal­i­for­nia, Los An­ge­les and lead au­thor of the study ap­pear­ing in the Oc­to­ber is­sue of the Jour­nal of Plas­tic and Re­con­struc­tive Sur­gery.

“We know there is tre­men­dous pres­sure for wom­en to be thin and have a cer­tain ap­pear­ance and for men to be fit and mus­cu­lar, but I would not have guessed that so many peo­ple would be in­ter­est­ed in sur­gi­cal body al­tera­t­ion.” 

In ad­di­tion, 21 per­cent of wom­en and 11 per­cent of men de­scribed them­selves as un­at­trac­tive, and 31 per­cent of wom­en and 16 per­cent of men re­ported feel­ing so un­com­fort­a­ble in a swim­suit that they avoid wear­ing one in pub­lic, Fred­er­ick and his col­leagues re­ported. 

“Many peo­ple are will­ing to pay thou­sands of dol­lars to per­ma­nently al­ter their bod­ies sur­gic­ally,” Fred­er­ick said. “The in­ter­est in cos­met­ic sur­gery is wide­spread across the full life span. Es­pe­cially for wom­en, there nev­er seems to be a re­prieve. Your ap­pear­ance is judged to be an im­por­tant part of who you are.” 

Fred­er­ick said he was sur­prised to find no rela­t­ion be­tween peo­ple’s body im­age and their in­ter­est in cos­met­ic sur­ger­y: e­ven those with­out a poor body im­age ex­pressed in­ter­est. “This is­n’t about poor body im­age,” Fred­er­ick said. “Peo­ple in­ter­est­ed in cos­met­ic sur­gery did not re­port less sat­is­fac­tion with their body or face than peo­ple who are not in­ter­est­ed. Peo­ple in­ter­est­ed in li­po­suc­tion, how­ev­er, did re­port low­er body sat­is­fac­tion, even when sta­tis­tic­ally con­trol­ling for body weight.”

Ac­cord­ing to the Amer­i­can As­socia­t­ion of Plas­tic Sur­geons, nearly 11 mil­lion cos­met­ic sur­gery pro­ce­dures were per­formed in 2006—a 48 per­cent in­crease from 2000. Roughly 90 per­cent of cos­met­ic surg­eries in 2004 were per­formed on wom­en. For the stu­dy, UCLA re­search­ers an­a­lyzed the re­sponses of more than 52,000 peo­ple aged 18 to 65, with an av­er­age age in the mid-30s, to an on­line sur­vey con­ducted by msnbc.com and elle.com in 2003.


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Most women, and large numbers of men, are interested in having plastic surgery, according to a report. Forty-eight percent women surveyed said they would be interested in cosmetic surgery, liposuction or both; another 23 percent said they would possibly be interested, according to the study. Among men, 23 percent said they would be interested in surgery, with 17 percent expressing possible interest. “Interest in cosmetic surgery is far more widespread than we had anticipated,” said David Frederick, a psychology graduate student at the University of California, Los Angeles and lead author of the study appearing in the October issue of the Journal of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery. “The majority of women expressed some interest in cosmetic surgery, and more than one-third of men expressed some degree of interest, which I found really surprising. We know there is tremendous pressure for women to be thin and have a certain appearance and for men to be fit and muscular, but I would not have guessed that so many people would be interested in surgical body alteration.” In addition, 21 percent of women and 11 percent of men described themselves as unattractive, and 31 percent of women and 16 percent of men reported feeling so uncomfortable in a swimsuit that they avoid wearing one in public, Frederick and his colleagues reported. “There is so much pressure, especially on women, to be thin and beautiful and to look younger,” Frederick said. “Many people are willing to pay thousands of dollars to permanently alter their bodies surgically. The interest in cosmetic surgery is widespread across the full life span. Especially for women, there never seems to be a reprieve. Your appearance is judged to be an important part of who you are.” Frederick said he was surprised to find no relation between people’s body image and their interest in cosmetic surgery—even those without a poor body image expressed interest in surgical alteration. “This isn’t about poor body image,” Frederick said. “People interested in cosmetic surgery did not report less satisfaction with their body or face than people who are not interested. People interested in liposuction, however, did report lower body satisfaction, even when statistically controlling for body weight.” According to the American Association of Plastic Surgeons, nearly 11 million cosmetic surgery procedures were performed in 2006—a 48 percent increase from 2000. Roughly 90 percent of cosmetic surgeries in 2004 were performed on women. For the study, UCLA researchers analyzed the responses of more than 52,000 people aged 18 to 65, with an average age in the mid-30s, to an online survey conducted by MSNBC.com and Elle.com in 2003.