Reality TV may drive cosmetic surgery decisions

Reality TV programmes in which viewers see a person being physically transformed by cosmetic surgery appear to be fuelling the ongoing increase in cosmetic and obesity surgery according to an editorial in the Medical Journal of Australia.

Professor Keith Petrie and a group of colleagues from the University of Auckland's Department of Psychological Medicine believe that cosmetic surgery shows on television tend to create unrealistic expectations for viewers.

A weight loss procedure shown in an hour-long programme might, for instance, give viewers the impression that their excess weight will simply fall off without any effort.

TV shows also tend to gloss over the emotional issues encountered by many patients, leading viewers to believe that cosmetic surgery will solve their low self-esteem, and "complications, infections and failed procedures are barely mentioned, giving the impression that negative outcomes are rare".

Professor Petrie has called for ethical safeguards to be put in place as well as research into the effects on both viewers and participants.

"Both [measures] would help improve participant selection procedures and ensure that vulnerable individuals are not placed in potentially damaging situations," he added.

According to the editorial, there was a 12 per cent rise in cosmetic surgery in Britain between 2006 and 2007.

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Reality TV may drive cosmetic surgery decisions
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