Cynthia Figueroa-Haas, PhD, a clinical assistant professor at the University of Florida (UF) College of Nursing, says that although plastic surgery should not be seen as a panacea for feelings of low self-worth or sexual attractiveness, it is important for health care practitioners to understand the psychological benefits of these procedures.

“Many individuals, including health care providers, have preconceived negative ideas about those who elect to have plastic surgery, without fully understanding the benefits that may occur from these procedures,” says Figueroa-Haas, who conducted a study at Barry University in Miami Shores. “This study provides the impetus for future studies related to self-esteem, human sexuality, and cosmetic surgery.”

Figueroa-Haas studied 84 women 21 to 57 years old to assess their perceptions of self-esteem and sexuality before and after aesthetic breast augmentation. The participants had been previously scheduled for breast augmentation and were undergoing the procedure solely for aesthetic purposes. Eligible candidates were mailed a consent form, a demographic questionnaire, and pretests asking them to rate their self-esteem and sexuality. They were mailed a similar post-test 2 to 3 months after the surgery.

Figueroa-Haas used two scientific scales to measure self-esteem and sexuality, the Rosenberg Self-Esteem Scale and the Female Sexual Function Index, which assesses domains of sexual function, such as sexual arousal, satisfaction, experience, and attitudes.

The results of the study found that the participants’ average self-esteem score increased from 20.7 to 24.9 on the 30-point Rosenberg scale, and their average Female Sexual Function Index (36-point scale) score increased from 27.2 to 31.4 . After the procedure, there were increases in ratings of sexual desire (78.6%), arousal (81%), and satisfaction (57%). Figueroa-Haas pointed out that a small number of participants showed no change in their levels of self-esteem or sexuality after surgery.

According to Figueroa-Haas, women should not view plastic surgery as a cure-all for any self-esteem and sexuality woes. Plastic surgeons should screen for this type of behavior and rule out potential patients who may have more serious psychological issues, she says.

[www.physorg.com, March 22, 2007]