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Cosmetic surgery epidemic among young adults a myth

February 28, 2005

ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill. - Many parents worry about the potential influence the media may have on their children's self-esteem and body image. Stories about young women having excessive plastic surgery are enough to keep any parent up at night. However, according to a study published in the March issue of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery® (PRS), the official medical journal of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS), only 5 percent of college-age women have actually had cosmetic surgery. Despite the low percentage of young women who had cosmetic procedures, many of the students had a favorable attitude toward cosmetic surgery.

"There's a common belief among the public that a large percentage of young adults and teens are having cosmetic surgery," said ASPS President Scott Spear, MD, Chief of Plastic Surgery, Georgetown University, Washington, D.C. "This study shows that, while many college-age women see cosmetic surgery as an acceptable thing to do, many have not had a procedure."

The study surveyed 559 college-age women - ages 17 to 24, at six universities. Among the 5 percent of females studied who had cosmetic surgery, chemical peel was the most common procedure, followed by breast augmentation, nose reshaping and breast reduction.

"The study found the more a young woman cares about her physical appearance, the more likely she will view cosmetic surgery positively," said David Sarwer, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Psychology at the Center for Human Appearance, University of Pennsylvania, and lead author of study.

More than 60 percent of the study participants said they could envision having at least one procedure in their lifetime. More than two thirds of the women reported knowing someone who had cosmetic surgery and approximately one third indicated that a family member had undergone surgery.

Despite concerns about young people's motivations for having cosmetic surgery, the study revealed that only 2.5 percent of those studied screened positive for body dysmorphic disorder (BBD), or a preoccupation with a slight or imagined defect in appearance. This rate is consistent with the predicted rate of the disorder among the general population.
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For referrals to plastic surgeons certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery and to learn more about cosmetic and reconstructive plastic surgery, call the ASPS at 888-4-PLASTIC (888-475-2784) or visit www.plasticsurgery.org.

The American Society of Plastic Surgeons is the largest organization of board-certified plastic surgeons in the world. With nearly 5,000 members, the society is recognized as a leading authority and information source on cosmetic and reconstructive plastic surgery. ASPS comprises 94 percent of all board-certified plastic surgeons in the United States. Founded in 1931, the society represents physicians certified by The American Board of Plastic Surgery or The Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada.

American Society of Plastic Surgeons

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