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The effects of cosmetic surgery on body image, self-esteem, and psychological problems

      Summary

      Background

      This study aims to investigate whether cosmetic surgery has an effect on an individual's body image, general self-esteem, and psychological problems. Further tests were conducted to assess whether the extent of psychological problems before surgery influenced improvements in postoperative psychological outcomes.

      Methods

      Questionnaire data from 155 female cosmetic surgery patients from a plastic surgery clinic were obtained before and approximately 6 months after surgery. The questionnaire consisted of measures on body image, self-esteem, and psychological problems. Pre- and postoperative values were compared. Pre- and postoperative measures were also compared with the data compiled from a representative sample of 838 Norwegian women, aged 22–55, with no cosmetic surgery experience.

      Results

      No differences in psychological problems between the presurgery patient and comparison samples were found, whereas differences in body image and self-esteem between the sample groups were reported in an earlier publication. Analyses further revealed an improvement in body image (satisfaction with own appearance) after surgery. A significant but rather small effect on self-esteem was also found, whereas the level of psychological problems did not change after surgery. Postoperative measures of appearance satisfaction, self-esteem, and psychological problems did not differ from values derived from the comparison sample. Finally, few psychological problems before surgery predicted a greater improvement in appearance satisfaction and self-esteem after surgery.

      Conclusions

      The study provides evidence of improvement in satisfaction with own appearance after cosmetic surgery, a variable that is thought to play a central role in understanding the psychology of cosmetic surgery patients. The study also points to the factors that surgeons should be aware of, particularly the role of psychological problems, which could inhibit the positive effects of cosmetic surgery.

      Keywords

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