Why lifting your face won't always lift your self-esteem


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With improved techniques and ever longer lines at the clinic, it's no surprise some people consider cosmetic surgery the proven next best thing to the Fountain of Youth. According to an article published by JAMA Facial Plastic Surgery, however, it seems that even with the best treatments, self-esteem appears unconnected to a positive outcome after facelift surgery.


Looking at all angles

As with many cosmetic procedures, the psychological effects are just as important to consider as the physical. The way an alteration in the appearance can affect a patient can be dramatic, especially if their expectations have been high. These so-called psychosocial considerations are important factors in the decision to have surgery as well as its perceived outcome.

According to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, 119,026 people chose facelift operations in 2011 — that figure is actually down around 5 percent from 133,856 in 2000. Dr. Andrew Jacono of the New York Center for Facial Plastic and Laser Surgery and his co-authors decided to use a "self-esteem scale" to measure the reaction of patients to their own facelifts with the hope of understanding the association between self-image and the post-operative results of a rejuvenating rhytidectomy.


Ups and downs

The 59 patients who took part in the study underwent facelift surgery between July and October of 2013. Fifty of these completed the six-month post-operative questionnaire and all but two of the patients were women with an average age of 58. The results were analyzed by looking at those people who fell into one of three groups prior to surgery: high, average and low self-esteem.

Patients who had generally low self-esteem before their treatment saw a "statistically significant increase" in their scores after surgery. Conversely, those with high self-esteem scores prior to surgery showed a "statistically significant decrease." The group with average preoperative self-esteem showed a "non-significant increase" six months after surgery.


A change in outlook

While patients felt they looked nearly nine years younger that perceived change in youthful appearance did not correlate with changes in self-esteem, the authors report."These findings underscore the complex nature of the human psyche as it relates to aesthetic surgery and demonstrates that patients exhibit a wide spectrum of psychological reactions after facelift surgery," the study concludes.

Though the number of people opting for facelifts has dropped slightly, the number of breast augmentations, tummy tucks and buttock implants has significantly increased. Though different people choose plastic surgery for a lot of different reasons — and certainly not all are Hollywood-style vanity projects — the figures arguably do suggest a trend toward more drastic options for changes in body image — changes that, according to Jacono's figures, might not leave you feeling any more happy with your lot in the long run.