According to a new report penned by the Youth Select Committee, “body dissatisfaction can start as young as six and lead to depression, anxiety and eating issues.” There is a real concern that if the scale of this issue is not recognised and given due care and attention, many young people will enter adulthood with deep-seated concerns about their own body image.
The report goes on to explain “body dissatisfaction must be recognised as a serious issue which potentially affects every young person. This report is only the first step; far more needs to be done by society at large to tackle this issue.” Recommendations for what the government needs to do to help this crisis include:
- Educating the general public more widely on what body image is, what affects it and who to talk to if you are worried
- Develop resources for all groups who are most at risk. At present, women have a certain level of support available as they are recognised as being more at risk (compared with men) of suffering from body image issues. The report argues that there are many more groups who are in a higher risk bracket and are likely to want and need support from external support agencies
- Work with big corporations and companies who can help aid the public in setting more realistic expectations about body image and bridge the gap between fantasy and reality
The role of the professionals
Cosmetic surgeons have a responsibility to patients to ensure that they are choosing to have surgery for the right reasons. As part of their responsibility as trained medical professionals, it is important to assess patients’ mental well-being in the pre-operative consultation period.
The NHS guidelines on choosing cosmetic surgery advise “before deciding to have cosmetic surgery, you should be sure that you have good reasons for wanting it and have a realistic expectation of the outcome”, and cosmetic surgeons need to ensure that this process is happening satisfactorily. As part of this process, “the surgeon has to make sure patients fully understand what procedures involve, the limitations of a procedure, what alternative procedures there are, and any potential complications. They should also be able to show before and after pictures of their work”.
This is why cosmetic surgery in the UK has such a strong reputation. Consumers need to ensure they are choosing a regulated professional who is fully trained and affiliated with the relevant professional bodies, and patients can be assured that emotional support and assessment of their overall well-being will be given the importance it requires.