Utah Valley University researchers address high cosmetic surgery incidence in Utah

University Marketing & Communications: Layton Shumway | 801-863-6863 | LShumway@uvu.edu

Written by: Barbara Christiansen | 801-863-8208 | BarbaraC@uvu.edu 

The Salt Lake City metropolitan area has been called one of the vainest in the nation and it has more plastic surgeons per capita than any similar area other than Miami. That’s according to sources including Forbes magazine. Researchers with the Utah Women & Leadership Project at Utah Valley University have released this information in a series of snapshots about women’s issues, with some ideas about the unexpected findings.

“I believe this is one of our most critical research snapshots thus far,” said Susan Madsen of the UWLP. “I would love to see girls and women in Utah focus more on developing their minds rather than thinking so much about their outward appearance. The stats shared in this snapshot will be surprising for many.”

The results may be unanticipated, based on Utah’s reputation for conservative and wholesome values, the report says. Some factors that may contribute to Utah’s high rate of cosmetic plastic surgery include its homogenous population and the rate of marriage and fertility.

Nearly 90 percent of the Utah population is Caucasian, and the state has the highest population of one religion, with 57 percent identifying as members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

“Researchers have found that homogenous societies, such as Utah, can have a contagion effect that pressures individuals into cosmetic surgery,” the report says. “Perhaps it is no surprise that, according to one researcher, many Utah mothers respond to cultural pressure to undergo the Mommy Makeover, which local doctors advertise as a solution to young mothers’ bodies ‘trashed’ by motherhood,” it continues.

The economy in Utah also lends itself to cosmetic surgery.

“Additionally, despite having the largest average household size in the nation, Utah has some of the fastest-growing incomes in the country, leaving families with more discretionary income than ever before,” it says.

With a high priority on marriage, there is competition for LDS women, specifically since they outnumber LDS men in Utah by a ratio of three-to-two. One of the effects of the perceived competition is that physical beauty is a means of attracting a mate.

Despite the myriad pressures to undergo cosmetic surgery, there have been those working both nationally and locally to help girls and women combat poor body image.

“Locally, Drs. Lexie Kite and Lindsay Kite, body image researchers, founded the nonprofit Beauty Redefined to promote positive body image via a website, presentations to girls and women across the United States, and online body-image resilience programs,” the snapshot says. “Lexie Kite has said, ‘We know women are capable of much more than being looked at, and once they believe that message, they can move on to accomplishing so many happy and worthwhile pursuits.’ ”

“We hope that raising the awareness of these issues will help women become more thoughtful about their choices, and we hope that influencers — parents, educators, church leaders and others — will better understand the importance of working with girls and young women on issues related to body image while emphasizing the importance of strengthening their heads such as getting a college education, their hearts, and hands,” Madsen said.

To read the research snapshot, visit http://www.uvu.edu/uwlp/docs/uwscosmeticsurgery.pdf. For more information, contact the Utah Women & Leadership Project at UWLP@uvu.edu or at 801-863-6176.

Fourth region (Section 1)