Sunday, June 05, 2005

Europeans approve of cosmetic surgery for medical and health reasons

GMI World Poll finds that a significant number of Americans think cosmetic surgery is a negative trend in society; Europeans approve of cosmetic surgery for medical and health reasons; Bush supporters and women view cosmetic surgery more negatively than Kerry supporters and men.

Despite growing trends in the use of cosmetic surgery, nearly half of American respondents surveyed view cosmetic surgery as a negative trend in society according to a poll by independent market research firm GMI, Inc. (

The GMI World Poll survey, which samples 1,000 media-informed individuals in each of the world’s leading G8 economic nations*, found that 40% of American respondents think the growing use of cosmetic surgery is a negative trend in society. These results contrast the general opinion in European societies: only 32% of British and 27% of French respondents said “no” to cosmetic surgery.

“Cosmetic surgery is more negatively viewed by Americans because it is threatening to become so common place. People feel pressured to look a certain way—after all, if everyone you know who is fifty is having surgery to look forty, an enormous amount of pressure is placed on those people who look their biological age,” explains Dr. Pepper Schwartz, Professor of Sociology at the University of Washington and President of the Pacific Sociological Association. “Also, Europeans are less prescriptive in general than Americans are—more a live and let live philosophy rather than amoral condemnation of changing what you look like for obvious reasons,” Schwartz continued.

Furthermore, the survey revealed that women were more likely to say no to cosmetic surgery than men; 41% to 39%. Contrarily, men were more likely to approve of cosmetic surgery being used for medical and health reasons than women, 43% to 40% respectively.

“Women feel pressured to look perfect in so many ways—they reasonably resent the trend that means they will look worse in comparison if they do not augment their looks surgically. Women who choose to have breasts that feel the call of gravity, eyes that show the costs of squinting over time and faces that have deep creases in them from the wear and tear of showing emotions every day, think about looking at other women who erase all signs of a lifetime of use and feel that it makes for an unfair comparison. Many women want to be loved for the experience in their eyes and face and body—but they know they are fighting an uphill battle in this society,” explains Schwartz.

“Men on the other hand, are visual creatures and don't mind how a woman is beautiful as long as she is. While most women wonder how men could want a woman with artificial breasts, a large number of men would feel that breast augmentation was a fine idea. Not all men want their partner to have plastic surgery—many men find the trend towards plastic surgery off putting. But overall, men have gotten used to women shaving, dieting, and working hard in a multitude of ways to look good for them—plastic surgery just seems more extreme—but still just an extension of what women have been doing to stay beautiful for them,” further clarifies Schwartz.

When the question was posed to Bush and Kerry supporters, Bush supporters were more likely to view cosmetic surgery negatively than Kerry supporters, and Kerry supporters were more likely to support the use of cosmetic surgery for medical and health reasons. According to Schwartz, these results reflect Kerry’s ability to draw support from younger Americans, as plastic surgery has become more common for those who are younger and who expect cosmetic surgery to happen to happen to themselves or their friends more than older cohorts do.

Complete results of GMI World Poll surveys are available in their entirety at the following Web site: ( Upon request, GMI will provide media with comprehensive World Poll survey results cross-tabulated by variables such as age, gender, geographic region, and where applicable, race and ethnicity.

*G8 nations are the world's major industrial democracies, including Canada, France, Germany, China, Japan, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States.