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Self esteem too low? Try surgery….

pkamens Icon Posted by Paula Kamen

December 30th, 2008

They come from 5 different women’s magazines and span four years, but the 35 articles that a Canadian researcher studied have a strikingly similar narrative. In magazines that include O Magazine and Cosmopolitan, the patient gets her physical lift, without ever considering emotional risks.

The researcher, undergraduate student Andrea Polinijo, of the University of British Columbia, published her findings in the November 2008 issue of Women’s Health Issues. In late December, her study was more widely reported by Reuters .

As Polinijo reports in her article, such magazines link emotional health to plastic surgery despite no scientific evidence to support it. A majority (59 percent) of the articles she studied pointed out an emotional improvement by the patients profiled, while only 18 percent suggested a possible negative connection. This fails to consider research from published studies that show that “emotional health problems, such as anxiety and depression, may arise or become amplified in in some patients as a consequence of cosmetic surgery,” she writes.

In contrast to the emotional risks, the magazines do NOT gloss over the physical risks of surgery. That part of the message has gotten through; in fact, they report about patients being fully aware of physical risks, even from experienced surgeons. But ultimately the emotional gains outweigh the other considerations in the stories.

The articles studied, published from 2002-2006, also commonly use men as beauty experts, with 29 percent of articles consulting them for their preferences. “In doing so,” Polinijo writes, “these magzines emphasize the notion that women’s bodies are for men’s viewing pleasure, while suggesting that cosmetic surgery is a logical choice for women who want to increase their chances of attracting a male partner.”

Polonijo studied Canada’s five most popular English-language women’s magazines: Chatelaine, Cosmo, O: The Oprah Magazine, Flare and Prevention.

For more info and a link to the study, see the official press release.

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