Mark Bernardini | Cosmetic surgery rates surge among Utah women

About 80 percent of U.S. women do not like the way they look, and Utah women are not immune to that feeling considering their extremely high rate of opting for cosmetic surgery.

According to the Utah Women and Leadership Project, two-thirds of Utah’s women know someone who has undergone elective plastic surgery. Many researchers are puzzled by the phenomenon, considering Utah is one of the most conservative and religious states in the nation.

While researchers aren’t totally clear on the reasons why, some believe cultural factors in Utah are contributing to the spike in cosmetic surgery.

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According to the cosmetic surgery data compiled by UWLP, one specific study on women belonging to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints revealed that breast augmentations are sometimes given to women for high school graduation presents, or “mommy makeovers” (breast augmentation, tummy tuck and liposuction) are also given to women as holiday presents.

“I can safely say that a majority of the women who come in for breast augmentation or tummy tucks, the primary reason is a statement such as, ‘I’ve had all my children, and now I need to fix my body,'” said Dr. Aaron Klomp, who practices in the Dixie Regional Medical Center’s Health and Performance Center.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 87.6 percent of the Utah’s population identifies as white, and 69 percent of people who undergo plastic surgery are white, the American Society for Plastic Surgeons reported in 2015.

The UWLP also cites the web search term “breast augmentation” is most often searched for in Utah at 53 percent above the national average rate.

“Statistically, even before I started here, I knew that Utah did more breast implants per capita than any other state,” Klomp said. “It’s not a new thing, it’s been going on for awhile.”

UWLP Director Susan Madsen said there are no hard-and-fast reasons as to why Utah women are more susceptible to getting elective plastic surgery, but education levels and homogeneity may have something to do with it.

“We’re lower than the national average when it comes to women getting an education,” Madsen said. “The research tells us that less educated women will have more plastic surgery, and women who are educated seem to have a bit more confidence built-in.”

Since so many Utah women belong in the same religious group, Madsen said it’s easy for them to compare themselves against others based on their outward appearance.

Additionally, Madsen said some research shows women in general lean toward an unattainable image of perfection, and some state researchers believe that desire is even stronger in the Beehive State. Others attribute it to Utahns typically being more health-oriented, therefore oriented on outward appearance as well.

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“There’s certainly a lot of focus on health, and with that focus on health probably comes an associated focus on wanting to look good since you’re putting all that work into health,” Klomp said.

The UWLP organized a campaign dubbed “beauty redefined” after Madsen and several colleagues were “driven crazy” by billboards that stretched between Utah County and Salt Lake County that advertised plastic surgery services.

One billboard in particular Madsen said she remembers depicted a women in a white bikini who was leaning back, and it said something along the lines of “shaping Utah.”

“What broke my heart is that this is what our 10 year old, our 15 year old, and our 20 year old daughters were seeing,” Madsen said.

This prompted the project to come up with a billboard campaign that depicts women graduating college, women in the military, and women volunteering with the words “women shaping Utah” below.

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“There are lots of concerns when you look at the data, and you have so many women in particular who are interested in plastic surgery,” Madsen said. “This is how women can shape Utah. We can make a difference. It’s not in how our bodies look.”

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