David B. Sarwer, PhD is one of the world’s foremost experts on the psychological responses to cosmetic surgery. In a recent report published in Aesthetic Surgery Journal, Dr. Sarwer et al conducted a large, multi-center study examining the effects of cosmetic surgery on patient satisfaction with their body image and improvement in their self-esteem. The one-hundred patients enrolled in the study answered a series of psychometric measures on body image, depressive symptoms, and self-esteem before surgery and at 3, 6, 12, and 24 months after their cosmetic procedures. The patients report improvements in their overall appearance and body image. These improvements were present at the first tests taken 3 months after their surgery and remained present throughout the 24 months of the study. Dr. Sarwer noted that these improvements in body image and satisfaction remained at their elevated levels even at 2 years after their procedures without deterioration. Similar finding were also found in the patients depressive symptoms. The patients in the study also reported a significant reduction in the frequency of negative emotions about their appearance.
Previous studies looking at the psychological response to cosmetic surgery have noted short-term improvements in body image and patient satisfaction with their improved body appearance but none have performed long-term follow-up such as Dr. Sarwer and his cohorts performed in this study. This study does speak to the durability of the patient improvement in body image. Dr. Sarwer hopes to perform a similar study with an even large patient size which will allow his group to examine some of the more subtle psychological changes associated with cosmetic surgery. I personally look forward to his future efforts given that the results of his previous studies reflect the improvement I see in my patients after their cosmetic procedures. One of the things I noted with my patients is that it does not appear that any one particular type of procedure-be it breast augmentation or a “mommy makeover” tummy tuck-has a better response when compared to other types of cosmetic procedures. I think this reflects that if you feel god about yourself, then the whole world feels better to you. Many years ago, the great actor-dancer Fred Astaire mentioned that he looked getting a shoeshine every day since it made him feel better all day long. Maybe cosmetic surgery’s effects are something like that and as Dr. Sarwer’s work demonstrate; these effects seem to last much longer than Fred Astaire’s shoeshine.
Herluf Lund MD