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Psychology of Plastic Surgery

Psychology of Plastic Surgery Despite insurance non-coverage, aesthetic surgery is experiencing a surge of popularity across all population segments.

In addition to being an out-of-pocket expense, the surgery is unique because it is initiated by the patient and not the physician.

A new long-term study from Europe has investigated the psychological effects of plastic surgery on approximately 550 patients.

Researchers from Ruhr-University Bochum, in cooperation with colleagues from the University of Basel, discovered patients reported more enjoyment of life, satisfaction and self-esteem after their physical appearance had been surgically altered.

Investigators examined whether patients who undergo plastic surgery are systematically different from other people, what goals they set themselves before the surgery, and whether they achieve these afterwards.

The researchers compared 544 first-time surgery patients with two other groups.

The first comparison group was composed of 264 people who had previously wanted plastic surgery and then decided against it, while the second group consisted of 1,000 people from the general population who have never been interested in plastic surgery.

The desire for a better appearance for aesthetic reasons usually occurs in younger people with slightly above-average incomes, researchers explain. Women represent 87 percent of all patients who opt for cosmetic surgery.

Overall, investigators discovered no significant differences among the three groups studied in terms of psychological and health variables, such as mental health, life satisfaction and depressiveness.

Using a psychological instrument, the so-called “Goal Attainment Scaling,” the researchers examined what goals the patients wanted to achieve with cosmetic surgery.

Alongside open questions, ten standard goals were offered, also including two which were clearly unrealistic: “All my problems will be solved” and “I’ll be a completely new person.”

Only 12 percent of the respondents specified these unrealistic standard goals. In the open questions, the patients answered on the whole more realistically, expressing wishes such as to “feel better,” “eliminate blemishes” and “develop more self-confidence.”

Psychologists tested the patients before surgery, as well as three, six and twelve months afterward.

On average, the participants claimed to have achieved their desired goal, and to be satisfied with the results in the long term.

Compared to those who had chosen not to have plastic surgery, the patients felt healthier, were less anxious, had developed more self-esteem and found the operated body feature in particular, but also their body as a whole, more attractive.

No adverse effects were observed. As a result of these findings, researchers report a high level of physical and psychological success accompanies most plastic surgery.

Study findings are found in the journal Clinical Psychological Science.

Source: Ruhr-University Bochum

Psychology of Plastic Surgery

Rick Nauert PhD

Rick Nauert, PhDDr. Rick Nauert has over 25 years experience in clinical, administrative and academic healthcare. He is currently an associate professor for Rocky Mountain University of Health Professionals doctoral program in health promotion and wellness. Dr. Nauert began his career as a clinical physical therapist and served as a regional manager for a publicly traded multidisciplinary rehabilitation agency for 12 years. He has masters degrees in health-fitness management and healthcare administration and a doctoral degree from The University of Texas at Austin focused on health care informatics, health administration, health education and health policy. His research efforts included the area of telehealth with a specialty in disease management.

APA Reference
Nauert PhD, R. (2018). Psychology of Plastic Surgery. Psych Central. Retrieved on November 29, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 Aug 2018 (Originally: 12 Mar 2013)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Aug 2018
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