To Cut or Not to Cut: Cosmetic Surgery Usage and Women's Age-Related Experiences
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Part of the developmental trajectory of middle and late life presumes the adjustment to physical aging, an adjustment that is complicated for women for whom the prioritization of beauty is central to their social value in Western societies. A 60-item written questionnaire was distributed to a volunteer community sample of 202 women ages 19–86. From these data, this study tested whether women's cosmetic surgery usage would act as a protective factor in age-related experiences related to body image, self-esteem, and aging attitudes. Cosmetic surgery recipients evidenced less body satisfaction, and more appearance investment with age increases while only non-recipients showed improvements in self-esteem ratings with advancing age. Both recipients and non-recipients showed declines in body care with age, a greater felt discrepancy between actual and perceived age, and less aging anxiety—but non-recipients more so than recipients. Thus, despite having undertaken action to improve their appearance through surgical means at some point in their adult lives, cosmetic surgery recipients did not inevitably feel younger than their years, or better about themselves, compared to those who have not pursued surgery. Study limitations and implications are outlined, and given that cosmetic surgery may become normative practice in future cohorts of aging adults, it concludes with a call for nationally-representative studies using matched-control group research designs typical of public health inquiry more generally.