Warwick University research links bullying and plastic surgery

cosmetic surgery and bullyingIt’s no surprise that bullying can result in serious psychological issues – depression and anxiety and their many physical manifestations – and a recent study proved that the effects can last long into adulthood. Now, new research published by the nearby University of Warwick has found that both victims of school bullying and bullies themselves are more likely to want plastic surgery.

Almost 3,000 UK teens were screened for their involvement in bullying and from there 800 adolescents were evaluated – this sample group included those that had been bullied, the bullies and also those who indicated that they’d been unaffected by bullying.

The study found that 11.5 per cent of victims have an ‘extreme desire’ to have cosmetic surgery. Interestingly, 3.4 per cent of bullies also indicated an interest in cosmetic surgery procedures compared with less than 1 per cent of teens that have not experienced bullying either as victim or perpetrator.

Researchers at the Department of Psychology at Warwick Medical School also analysed their reasons for wanting cosmetic surgery; bullies indicated it was because they needed people to admire them. Understandably, those who have been the victim of bullying, often have low self-esteem and wish to ‘change’ themselves.

The research entitled ‘Adolescent Desire for Cosmetic Surgery: Associations with Bullying and Psychological Functioning’, is published in Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, the journal of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons. Lead researcher Professor Wolke commented: “Being victimised by peers resulted in poor psychological functioning, which increased desire for cosmetic surgery. For bullies, cosmetic surgery may simply be another tactic to increase social status […] to look good and achieve dominance.

The role of the cosmetic surgeon

Cosmetic surgery is an elective procedure – it is may be desireable but is never essential. For this reason, it is fundamental that the patient is making a fully informed and positive decision and has realistic expectations of both the physical outcome and how it will affect them psychologically.

The consultation process is therefore incredibly important because it gives the cosmetic surgeon the chance to evaluate the prospective patient’s state of mind and reasons for wanting surgery. If I feel that the patient is doing it for the wrong reasons, then I always advise them to postpone cosmetic surgery until a later date – or potentially never, referring them to a Clinical Psychologist as indicated.

Having said that, there are particular areas in which surgery may be highly appropriate in children to prevent them getting bullied. Classically this would include the child with very prominent ‘sticky-out’/’bat’ ears, for whom the relatively straightforward operation of Pinnaplasty (also known as Otoplasty) at the age of 5 or 6 is likely to spare them years of torment, lasting through puberty and into adult life.

Even just the removal of an otherwise harmless but pigmented (brown) mole, particularly one that grows hair, from an obvious area, can result in immediate relief of bullying for the hapless affected child.

I have successfully treated many children (and adults) with these sort of problems, including unsightly scars which can often be improved, and continue to do so at my Leamington Clinic at the Nuffield Health Warwickshire Hospital.