Magazines show cosmetic surgery’s emotional “lift”

By Joene Hendry

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - A survey of popular women’s magazines suggests articles tend to portray cosmetic surgery as an empowering option for improving women’s emotional health and physical appearance, despite the lack of scientific consensus that cosmetic surgery boosts emotional health.

Nearly half of 35 articles published in the 5 most popular women’s magazines in Canada contained information on the pre- and post-surgery emotional health of the cosmetic surgery recipient, researchers found.

Twenty-nine percent of the articles mentioned how women’s cosmetic surgery impacts men, Andrea Polonijo, a graduate student at Dalla Lana School of Public Health at the University of Toronto, and colleagues report in the journal Women’s Health Issues.

Male views of breast augmentation, buttock implants, and vaginal rejuvenation are commonly used to define standards of female attractiveness and “justify undergoing cosmetic surgery,” Polonijo told Reuters Health.

As part of Polonijo’s undergraduate research while at the University of British Columbia, in Vancouver, Canada, she and colleagues assessed 35 cosmetic surgery articles, published between 2002 and 2006 in Cosmopolitan, Chatelaine, O: The Oprah Magazine, Flare, and Prevention.

The most common procedures were breast implants and liposuction, followed by face lifts or facial profile procedures, such as rhinoplasty (nose surgery) and facial implants.

Of articles discussing emotional health, 59 percent specifically linked negative pre-surgery emotional health with positive post-surgery indicators, Polonijo and colleagues report.

Moreover, articles regularly denote cosmetic surgery as “restoring lost youth” and age as “a problem that needs to be fixed,” the investigators found.

Polonijo thinks “women should consider looking beyond popular culture perspectives … before going under the knife for an emotional boost.”

SOURCE: Women’s Health Issues, November/December 2008

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