The aesthetic surgery-ageism relationship


It’s a ubiquitous marketing message in aesthetics: rejuvenation procedures can increase competitiveness in the workplace. But there has been a lack of research that puts data behind the relationship between ageism – the prejudices against people because of age – and the desire for cosmetic procedures. Until now. According to a preliminary report published in July 2019 in the Aesthetic Surgery Journal, a significant number of patients who seek cosmetic procedures believe that they are discriminated against because of their advanced age.

The study stems from two commonly held truths: (1) Ageism increases the risk of psychological distress and physical health problems. And (2) Many cosmetic patients are looking for anti-aging procedures. To study the relationship between the desire for cosmetic procedures and ageism, the researchers interviewed 50 patients, with an average age of 49.4 years, at a clinic for cosmetic plastic surgery. Two-thirds of the patients were on anti-aging treatments, including fillers and neurotoxins. The rest had a range of treatments, from breast implants to labiaplasty.

Patients answered questions about their experiences and reasons for discrimination, as well as perceived age discrimination in interpersonal, romantic, professional and health settings; their anticipation of ageism; and self-rated health and self-esteem.

“Our survey found that over 30% of participants said they were treated with less courtesy or respect than others, received poor service in a restaurant or store, or had other discriminatory experiences due to their age. Many patients also reported perceiving ageism in their interpersonal relationships, for example by being excluded by others or teased or made fun of because of age, ”according to an email response from the author of the report. study Rebecca L. Pearl, Ph.D., assistant professor of psychology in Psychiatry, Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania. “Our study also found a negative relationship between perceived age discrimination and self-rated health status. Additionally, patients who reported experiencing age discrimination or who said they expected age discrimination in the future had lower self-esteem than patients who did not. not experienced or did not anticipate discrimination on the basis of age.

Dermatologists and other cosmetic providers should therefore consider taking steps to educate patients who may be concerned about future age discrimination of realistic expectations of cosmetic procedures aimed at making them appear younger.

“Dermatologists who provide cosmetic services should be aware that some older patients may resort to anti-aging procedures because of concerns about age discrimination and that these concerns are associated with poor health. It is important to manage patients’ expectations of what cosmetic procedures can and cannot do to address their concerns about ageism, ”says Dr. Pearl.

In some cases, cosmetics suppliers should consider referring patients who appear to be severely stressed by ageism to a mental health professional, the authors write.

To optimize results, researchers need to delve deeper into the relationship between cosmetic procedures and anticipated and perceived ageism, according to Dr. Pearl.

“We interviewed a small number of patients from a single plastic surgeon clinic. Future research could survey more patients in several practices. Our survey was cross-sectional, so we cannot conclude that there is a causal relationship between age discrimination and poorer health and self-esteem. The use of longitudinal or experimental models could help to clarify the potential causal link between age discrimination and health. Research is also needed to determine whether cosmetic procedures alleviate patient concerns or experiences of age discrimination, ”she says.


Dr. Pearl does not report any relevant disclosure.

The references:

Pearl RL, Percec I. Ageism and health in patients undergoing cosmetic procedures. Esthet Surg J. 2019; 39 (7): NP288-NP292.

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