Focusing on Body Image Dissatisfaction

USA TODAY, February 1999 | Go to article overview
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Focusing on Body Image Dissatisfaction


Future psychological studios of plastic surgery patients need to focus on body image, according to the authors of a historical review of cosmetic surgery patients. "we really don't know what motivates people to seek plastic surgery," admits Linton Whitaker, chief of plastic surgery and director of the Center for Human Appearance, University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, Philadelphia. "We need to probe these issues so we can clarify which patients will benefit from plastic surgery."

Covering the psychological research completed in the last 40 years, the review was designed to address two basic questions: Are there types of patients for whom plastic surgery is inappropriate?, and what is the likelihood that patients will benefit psychologically from cosmetic surgery? The authors conclude that the existing research has not addressed either of these questions completely. They recommend that future research take a new direction and focus on body image in cosmetic surgery patients.

Body image--defined as the perceptions, thoughts, and feelings a person has about his or her physical appearance--is thought to play an important role in self-esteem for many individuals. In addition, physical appearance and body image influence how persons are perceived by others. Research shows that attractive people are viewed more positively in practically every situation studied, such as education, employment, health, care, legal proceedings, and romantic encounters.

"Body image dissatisfaction is pervasive in America. We believe this dissatisfaction may motivate many persons to undergo cosmetic surgery," indicates David Sarwer, assistant professor of psychology in psychiatry and surgery at the Center for Human Appearance.

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