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Plastic Fantastic?

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If you are unhappy with the size or shape of your breasts, you are not alone. Many women opt for a boob job to boost their confidence. But does the surgeon’s scalpel actually benefit someone’s body satisfaction? New psychological research suggests the answer is “no”.

To investigate the link between body satisfaction and plastic surgery, sociologist Tillman von Soest used the longest running Norwegian youth study. Since 1992, thousand young Norwegians are participating in this study. Every few years, these people – now grown up – answer the same questionnaire, which measures various psychological factors, like body satisfaction, self-esteem and feelings of depression.

After the fourth round of questions in 2005, Von Soest sent another short survey to the participants to find out who had undergone plastic surgery, when, and if they were satisfied with the result. 106 of the participants had had at least one cosmetic surgery procedure. Because of a lack of men, the researchers focused only on the 78 women. The majority of their operations were for breast augmentation (26.8 per cent) or reduction (19.5 per cent), with other procedures including liposuctions, ear and nose modifications.

After comparing the psychological situation of the women before and after the surgery, Von Soest found that most women were indeed more satisfied with their breasts after surgery. However, it seemed that cosmetic surgery didn’t boost their general appearance satisfaction. On the contrary, cosmetic surgery of any kind was associated with increases in anxiety and depression, eating disorders, more alcohol use and more suicide attempts.

As von Soest says, “I would guess that cosmetic surgery does not make people happier. After a while most people will probably experience that their lives did not change much.”

Source: Kennislink, Research Digest, You Beauty

von Soest, T., Kvalem, I., & Wichstrøm, L. (2011). Predictors of cosmetic surgery and its effects on psychological factors and mental health: a population-based follow-up study among Norwegian females Psychological Medicine, 42 (03), 617-626 DOI: 10.1017/S0033291711001267

Photo via Anorak

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