An Internet survey, commissioned by the American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS), shows that 71% of people seeking plastic surgery make $60,000 or less, 64% are under 50 years old, and 81% have not had plastic surgery before.

Study leaders Sarah Thorne and Tanya Darisi, with Decision Partners LLC, a Pittsburgh-based research and communications firm, conducted in-depth interviews with 60 people who had contacted the ASPS referral service to find a plastic surgeon. They distilled the information into a questionnaire. A national polling firm used the questionnaire in an Internet-based survey of 644 adults seriously considering plastic surgery in the next year.

“The only thing we found that was typical was how thoughtful people were about undergoing plastic surgery,” says Thorne. “We talked to moms who just had kids and wanted to have a few things nipped and tucked so they could feel better about themselves. We talked to young guys who had something that had bothered them all their lives and who saved money for an operation since their teens or early 20s. We talked to older women who, now that they had the time and perhaps the ability to have surgery done, wanted something fixed because it had always been important to them.”

Jafar S. Hasan, MD, resident surgeon at the University of Michigan plastic surgery training program, has studied why people seek aesthetic surgery.

“Some older studies suggested that the average plastic surgery patient is likely to have some
psychological disturbance—especially male patients,” says Hasan. “But this is old research. I found that on average, the plastic surgery patient does not suffer from any psychiatric disorder. Those older views are outdated.”

But can plastic surgery really make a person happier? Yes—within limits, says Ted A. Grossbart, PhD, a psychologist at Harvard.

“If someone is unhappy with their nose and comes out with a nose he or she is happier with, it works,” says Grossbart. “If they are not looking to change the fundamental quality of their lives and all their doubts—if they come in with realistic expectations—people can probably get the results they are hoping for.”

[www.webmd.com, August 23,2006]