Plastic Surgery – Does it Make Patients Happy?

Among non-supporters of plastic surgery, there is a common viewpoint that people who go under the knife to improve their looks are actually unhappy and unsatisfied individuals. After all, why go through the pain, expense and sometimes extensive recovery period that some surgical procedures require, only to change one’s outward appearance? Surprisingly, the results of a recent study conducted over the long term shows that people who undergo plastic surgery may have just stumbled upon a way to find happiness and satisfaction… and high-end cosmetic surgery have nothing to do with it.

The (Good) Psychological Effects of Plastic Surgery

Researchers at Ruhr University Bochum and Basel University conducted a study that attempted to discover the effects of cosmetic procedures on an estimated 550 individuals. The European study, which was released in early March 2013, showed that patients who underwent cosmetic surgery reported an increase in confidence following their procedure.

To impose a control on the study group, the researchers surveyed 264 individuals who wanted to have a plastic surgery procedure but decided not to go through it, and 1000 individuals who were not interested in undergoing any cosmetic enhancement. Of the participants in the study, women comprised 87% of the patients who chose to have plastic surgery. There was no noteworthy difference seen in members of the groups when it came to unhappiness and life satisfaction. There was also little difference among participants when it came to issues such as mental well being.

Realistic Expectations

Researchers used what is known as the “Goal Attainment Scale” as an instrument for psychological testing. The scale is designed to determine what patients thought and felt using open questions in addition to providing a choice between ten categorical aims. The questions also included two unrealistic goals, which stated that the patient hopes to become a new person completely and that he or she will be able to overcome problems once the aesthetic ideal is achieved. Of all respondents, only twelve percent chose these answers. The majority of patients opted for the more realistic goals, such as eliminating blemishes and imperfections, improving their self-confidence and feeling better.

Plastic Surgery = Happiness?

The subjects were all tested prior to surgery and several times post-op. They were asked to undergo the survey again 3, 6 and 12 months after the procedure. An average number of participants claimed that they have reached their goals and that they are satisfied with the results over the long term. Here is the more interesting part: compared to individuals who opted against plastic surgery, patients who underwent cosmetic procedure said they felt healthier, had improved self-esteem, felt less anxious and were much more confident about the attractiveness of their body. Researchers also did not observe any negative effects on the participants as a result of their plastic surgery procedure. As a result of feeling better about themselves, the participants turned out to enjoy a better level of happiness than those who did not undergo plastic surgery.