Pew Research Gauges Our Attitudes About Cosmetic Surgery

10/18/2016
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New survey data from the Pew Research Center sheds light on American attitudes and beliefs regarding cosmetic surgery.

The survey, conducted in spring 2016, asked respondents about several kinds of procedures, including elective cosmetic surgery, laser eye surgery, skin or lip injections, cosmetic dental procedures, hair replacement surgery or vasectomy/tubal ligation procedures.

Just 4 percent of Americans say they have ever had elective cosmetic surgery and 2 percent of U.S. adults report having had less invasive procedures such as injectables.

The survey found that cosmetic surgery is uncommon among all major demographic groups, but women are roughly three times as likely as men to say they have undergone a cosmetic procedure. This gender gap is seen across age groups, the survey showed.

Americans also say people are too quick to undergo cosmetic procedures today. Specifically, respondents were asked which statement is closer to their view: that “people are too quick to undergo cosmetic procedures in order to change their appearance in ways that are not really important,” or that “it’s understandable that more people undergo cosmetic procedures these days because it’s a competitive world and people who look more attractive tend to have an advantage.” Sixty one percent choose the first, more negative statement, while 36 percent say cosmetic procedures are understandable.

Sixty-two percent of respondents felt elective cosmetic surgery is an appropriate use of technology, and a 53 percent say same about the use of skin and lip fillers. Individuals with incomes of $75,000 or higher are more likely to say cosmetic surgery is an appropriate use of technology, compared with just half (49 percent) of those with family incomes under $30,000 – a gap of 29 percentage points, the survey showed.

Eighty five percent of those who have had cosmetic surgery themselves say it is an appropriate use of technology. By contrast, 58 percent of those who have not had such a procedure and who do not have close friends or family who have had one say it is an appropriate use of technology.

About a quarter of Americans (26 percent) say cosmetic surgery “almost always” makes people feel more confident and better about themselves, but a majority (56 percent) say this only occurs “some of the time.”

About half of those who have had elective cosmetic surgery (53 percent) say it almost always makes people feel more confident and better about themselves. Fewer among those without such personal experience say the same, including 35 percent of those who have close friends or family who have had elective cosmetic surgery and 23 percent of those with neither type of personal connection to a cosmetic procedure.

On the other hand, just 8 percent of U.S. adults say cosmetic surgery “almost always” leads to unexpected health problems. Most (63 percent) say this sometimes occurs. Those who have had elective cosmetic surgery are less likely than others to say unexpected health problems occur at least some of the time.

Overall, about half of Americans (54 percent) say elective cosmetic surgery leads to both benefits and downsides for society, with a smaller share (26 percent) expressing the belief that there are more downsides than benefits. Relatively few (16 percent) say there are more benefits than downsides.

Again, those who have had elective cosmetic surgery are more likely to express positive views about it. Close to 40 percent of people in this group say cosmetic surgery has more benefits than downsides for society, while just 12 percent say it has more downsides. But like the general population, about half (49 percent) say the benefits and downsides for society are roughly equal.

 

 

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