Psychosocial, attitudinal and developmental factors associated with elective major body cosmetic surgery
Over 4.6 million cosmetic surgical procedures were performed by plastic surgeons and dermatologists in 1999, according to the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery (ASAPS). The present literature review outlines the research on the psychological characteristics of individuals who seek cosmetic surgery, examined from a broad historical perspective. The studies can be defined by the different methodological approaches employed. Interview-based investigations revealed significant levels of psychopathology in cosmetic surgery patients, whereas studies that utilised standardised measurements found far less disturbance. However, such research produced inconsistent findings and was also found to be methodologically flawed. These are discussed. Sarwer et al (1998b) proposed that future studies of the psychology of cosmetic surgery need to focus on body image, a psychological construct closely connected to physical appearance. Various investigators consider that body image has multiple dimensions. The review outlines a research agenda that has looked at body image from three main theoretical conceptualisations; namely social comparison, shame and developmental influences (teasing). The majority of the body image research has investigated eating disorders. Nevertheless, the literature reviews from these perspectives to provide support for Sarwer's et al's. (1998b) proposed model of the relationship between body image dissatisfaction and cosmetic surgery. More recent cosmetic surgery research has begun to incorporate the theoretical relationship of body image in relation to cosmetic surgery. Therefore the final part of the review shall explore current recent advances in the psychology of body image and cosmetic surgery.