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Plastic Surgery As An Economic Indicator

Fri, 03/09/2012 - 4:56am
Donald Brown, MD

Since the America Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS) released their 2011 plastic surgery statistics, I’ve seen a lot of talk online about how, “despite the economy,” plastic surgery numbers are rebounding from the lows they hit in 2007 and 2008. People say this as if plastic surgery is—against all odds—somehow rising above the general trends and setting unprecedented records.

I can see why it’s tempting to frame it that way—while the economic climate has certainly improved in the past few years, I think we can all agree that we haven’t quite gotten back to where we were before everything bottomed out. That version of the story doesn’t quite convey the big picture, however; in fact, when you break down the numbers, it becomes clear that they are not climbing again in spite of the economy, but rather as a result of it.

In order to understand all this, it’s important to look back farther, past the beginning of the recession, to the year when plastic surgery’s popularity was truly peaking: 2005. Nearly 11.5 million cosmetic procedures were performed that year, 2.1 million of which were cosmetic surgeries, and expensive, invasive surgeries like nose jobs and facelifts topped the list of preferred procedures.

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