A significant majority of young people and adults are unhappy with their appearance. This dissatisfaction results in a range of negative impacts on their psychological wellbeing and physical health. If advertisers are to be believed, we will be happier and more successful if we look better. The availability and use of cosmetic surgery and less invasive procedures to enhance or ‘normalise’ appearance has grown significantly in recent decades. But is this the answer? Will these procedures make us happier? What might the increasing preoccupation with ‘looks’ and the positioning of cosmetic procedures as a ‘solution’ mean for society, and for the role and responsibilities of health and scientific professionals?
Nichola Rumsey is Professor of Appearance and Health Psychology at the UWE, Bristol and a member of a current Nuffield Council on Bioethics Working Party on cosmetic procedures. In this session she will outline the causes and consequences of appearance dissatisfaction, the reasons for the rapid increase in the provision and uptake of cosmetic procedures and the social and ethical questions these developments raise. She will invite the audience to debate whether, in a quest for happier lives, the enhancement of ‘looks’ is the best way to go.