The GDP: A Prettier Sister

by Elaine Schwartz    •    Feb 25, 2013    •    601 Views

GDP, move over. Thanks to our nation’s obsession with physical beauty, there’s a new way to check the vitality of our economy. How? By looking at the number of cosmetic surgeries done annually. It makes sense that this would be a pretty accurate indicator—during times of economic depression, fewer people spend money on superfluous luxuries such as plastic surgery. And according to statistics from the ASPS (American Society of Plastic Surgeons), good economic times are ahead of us as the number of plastic surgeries went up by 5% to 14.6 million in 2012.

But let’s take a deeper look inside these statistics.

The growth of this number is not coming from an increase in invasive procedures such as breast augmentation, eyelid surgery, facelift, liposuction, or nose reshaping. Instead, the change has come from increasing popularity of cheaper procedures like Botox, chemical peeling, and laser hair removal. In fact, two of the more expensive procedures, (nose jobs and eyelid surgeries) were actually more popular in 2010, a time when many people were just starting to recover from the recession. Perhaps this interest in cheaper surgeries could indicate that Americans are still not up for splurges quite yet.

All of these surgeries’ popularity has varied throughout the past few years, but there is one procedure that is the reigning queen of them all: breast implants. In the past 15 years, the number of breast augmentations has tripled (recession and all).

Fun fact: Although the majority of these procedures are done purely based on our society’s obsession with big breasts, there is one redeeming justification that is getting more and more popular each year. It is becoming increasingly common for breast cancer survivors to go through reconstructive surgeries after mastectomies. Although reconstruction only makes up a fraction of all breast implants, it’s nice to know that America’s infatuation with bodily enhancement has helped bring about a solution to a problem many cancer survivors were previously faced with.

Sources and Resources: For more information about the growing trend of reconstructive surgery for cancer patients, read this Slate blog post. This article gives information about how the overall increase in plastic surgery is affecting our economy. This article by Time Magazine provides more economic analysis of the plastic surgery business.

From Guest Blogger, Kent Place Student Lilli DeBode

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