Women's magazines downplay emotional health risks of cosmetic surgery: study

Dec 11, 2008

While the emotional health implications of cosmetic surgery are still up for scientific debate, articles in women's magazines such as The Oprah Magazine and Cosmopolitan portray cosmetic surgery as a physically risky, but overall worthwhile option for enhancing physical appearance and emotional health, a UBC study has found.

The study, published in Women's Health Issues journal, is the first to examine how women's magazines portray cosmetic surgery to Canadians. It also finds that male opinions on female attractiveness are routinely used to justify cosmetic surgery and that a disproportionate amount of articles are devoted to breast implants and cosmetic surgery among women aged 19-34.

"Alongside beauty, clothing and diet advice, women's magazines present cosmetic surgery as a normal practice for enhancing or maintaining beauty, becoming more attractive to men and improving emotional health," says Andrea Polonijo, who conducted the research at UBC as an undergraduate honours thesis in the Dept. of Sociology.

Polonijo, now a graduate student at University of Toronto's Dalla Lana School of Public Health, examined how Canada's five most popular English-language women's magazines – Chatelaine, Cosmopolitan, O: The Oprah Magazine, Flare and Prevention – portray cosmetic surgery. The study focused on 35 articles published between 2002 and 2006.

"Magazines are communicating the physical risks of cosmetic surgery more than the emotional health risks," says Polonijo, noting that studies have found that emotional health issues such as anxiety and depression may arise or increase in women who undergo physically successful cosmetic surgery, regardless of their preoperative emotional state. Of the articles that mention emotional health, only 18 per cent suggest cosmetic surgery may be detrimental to emotional well-being, the study found.

Magazines routinely present two "ideal" cosmetic surgery candidates, the study found: an unhappy, insecure, lonely woman looking to boost low self-confidence and self-esteem, and a successful, attractive, confident woman with high self-esteem who seeks cosmetic surgery to maintain perfection.

"These two profiles represent extremes of a wide range of attitudes, for which many women may view themselves as being somewhere in-between," says UBC sociology professor Richard Carpiano, a co-author of the study. "This potentially allows for cosmetic surgery to be presented as an option for many women regardless of their preoperative emotional state."

Men's opinions were often considered in these cosmetic surgery articles, with 29 per cent discussing the impact that women's cosmetic surgery has on the male population.

To see the Polonijo's and Carpiano's study, entitled "Representations of Cosmetic Surgery and Emotional Health in Women's Magazines in Canada," visit: www.sciencedirect.com/science/journal/10493867 .

Source: University of British Columbia

Explore further: CDC charges Johns Hopkins to lead development of Ebola training module

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

US official: Auto safety agency under review

1 hour ago

Transportation officials are reviewing the "safety culture" of the U.S. agency that oversees auto recalls, a senior Obama administration official said Friday. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has been criticized ...

Out-of-patience investors sell off Amazon

1 hour ago

Amazon has long acted like an ideal customer on its own website: a freewheeling big spender with no worries about balancing a checkbook. Investors confident in founder and CEO Jeff Bezos' invest-and-expand ...

Ebola.com domain sold for big payout

2 hours ago

The owners of the website Ebola.com have scored a big payday with the outbreak of the epidemic, selling the domain for more than $200,000 in cash and stock.

Recommended for you

Study reveals state of crisis in Canadian foster care system

12 hours ago

A new study of foster care in Canada led by a researcher at Western University reveals a shrinking number of foster care providers are available across the country to care for a growing number of children with increasingly ...

Researchers prove the benefits of persimmons for diet

14 hours ago

Alba Mir and Ana Domingo, researchers from the Department of Analytical Chemistry of the University of Valencia, under the supervision of professors Miguel de la Guardia and Maria Luisa Cervera, from the same department, ...

Hand blenders used for cooking can emit persistent chemicals

14 hours ago

Eight out of twelve tested models of hand blenders are leaking chlorinated paraffins when used according to the suppliers' instructions. This is revealed in a report from Stockholm University where researchers analyzed a ...

User comments : 0