Can cosmetic surgery make you happy?

15 March 2013

Cosmetic surgery could increase happiness in some individuals, according to a recent study. Dr Jurgen Margraf, Alexander von Humboldt professor for Clinical and Psychology and Psychotherapy at the Ruhr-Universitat Bochum, claims patients that have undergone breast enlargement surgery or other such procedures demonstrate more life enjoyment, satisfaction and self-esteem after their operation.

The discovery was made when Dr Margraf investigated the psychological effects of plastic surgery on approximately 550 patients. Carried out in combination with scientists from the University of Basel, the study is world's largest ever investigation on the issue and will be published in the journal Clinical Psychological Science.

To test his hypothesis, Dr Margraf examined whether patients who undergo cosmetic surgery are systematically different to other people. The professor then established the goals patients set themselves before surgery and whether they achieve these afterwards.

Researchers compared the results of 544 first-time surgery patients with 264 people that had previously wanted cosmetic surgery but decided against it and approximately 1,000 people from the general population that had never shown interest in such an operation.

Prior to the study, it was established that the desire for a better appearance generally occurs in young people with slightly above-average incomes, with women representing 87 per cent of all patients opting for plastic surgery. However, there were no significant differences between the three groups in terms of psychological and health variables before the commencement of the study.

Using Goal Attainment Scaling, researchers analysed the goals patients had before surgery. Only 12 per cent of participants had unrealistic standard goals, such as "all my problems will be solved" and "I'll be a completely new person".

Most aspirations included "feeling better", "eliminating blemishes" and "getting more self-confidence".

Participants were tested before surgery and at three, six and 12 month intervals.

On average it was observed that subjects achieved their desired goals and were satisfied with the results in the long-term. What's more, compared to those that did not have plastic surgery, patients felt healthier, less anxious and had more self-esteem. It was also noted that individuals felt more attractive.

Additionally, Dr Margraf and his colleagues did not observe any adverse effects in surgery patients and concluded that the average treatment success of cosmetic surgery is high.

If these findings are correct, it is little surprise that plastic surgery is on the rise in the UK.  The British Association of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons (BAAPS) found that while the number of procedures taking place remains static, facial rejuvenation treatments are proving particularly popular, with eyelid surgery, fat transfer, brow and facelifts just some of the procedures most in demand.

It isn't just women that are choosing to go under the knife either, with male brow lifts increasing by 19 per cent. Eyelid surgery and fat transfer is also popular among both genders, posting a rise of 13 per cent.

Fourteen per cent more facelifts took place last year, but traditional favourites abdominoplasty (tummy tucks) and liposuction experienced falling demand, dropping by 12 per cent and 14 per cent respectively.

Posted by Philip Briggs

Health News is provided by Adfero in collaboration with Spire Healthcare. Please note that all copy above is ©Adfero Ltd. and does not reflect views or opinions of Spire Healthcare unless explicitly stated. Additional comments on the page from individual Spire consultants do not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of other consultants or Spire Healthcare.

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