Get A Facelift, Live Longer

Mayo Clinic study suggests surgery linked to longevity

Neil Sherman

Neil Sherman

Published on July 31, 2001

TUESDAY, July 31, 2001 (HealthDayNews) -- A facelift may not only smooth the ravages of time. It could add a decade to your life.

A new study suggests women who have facelifts might live up to 10 years longer than women who don't get the plastic surgery. A boost in self-image and the resulting optimism may be the reasons, the researchers say.

Drs. Lane Smith and Stephan Finical based their finding on a comparison of the average age of death for 250 women who had facelifts at the Mayo Clinic between 1970 and 1975 with the average age of death for all American women. The results were reported this month at the annual meeting of the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery in New York City.

"Changing the appearance of the face, in many situations, can have a very dramatic effect on the perception of self, on self-esteem and on body image," says Dr. Mark Jewell, a plastic surgeon and chairman of the society's communication commission. "And the results of this very credible piece of research are things we see in our patients all the time. I really believe there is a connection between the body and the mind, and this is just another example of it."

The average age of the women in the study who had plastic surgery was about 60. Twenty-five years later, 76 of the 250 women had died, at an average age of 81.7 years. But 148 were still alive, at an average age of 84 years. The average life expectancy of all women in America was 73.2 when the study started.

Couldn't it be that women who can afford a facelift live a healthier, less stressful lifestyle?

"Absolutely," Jewell says. "Their lifestyle could have skewed the results here. It was not any type of controlled study. At the same time, I think this is a very credible study, and one of the first of its kind. There have been a variety of other studies that assess the psychological benefits of plastic surgery. This is one of the first that addresses such things as physiology and longevity."

More than 5.7 million cosmetic surgical and non-surgical procedures were performed in 2000 in the United States, the society reports. Between 1997 and 2000, the number of plastic surgery procedures jumped 173 percent in the United States. The vast majority were performed on white women. Nearly one in 10 women aged 55 to 64 have had some form of cosmetic surgery, and another 16 percent expect to have it sometime in the future, the society says.

"I think that people who have plastic surgery are motivated, health-conscious individuals who are more likely to eat right, exercise and take care of themselves," says Dr. Lyle Leipziger, chief of plastic surgery at North Shore University Hospital and Long Island Jewish Medical Center. "So it's not surprising that this type of person would have greater longevity."

"In my own practice, I see patients post-operatively having increased confidence, greater self-esteem and an overall improved outlook on life. I don't know if that translates into a longer life, but it seems to translate into a more productive one," he says.

Jewell says, "Our statistics show a dramatic increase in procedures and the acceptability for all kinds of plastic surgery in the United States. Twenty-five years ago, facelifts and other kinds of procedures were relegated to the matrons of society, and since that time they have become well-accepted procedures."

"Many people are very young inside. What we are trying to do is match the exterior with that interior youthful spirit," says Jewel.

What To Do: For more information on facelifts, see the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery or the Plastic Surgery Information Service.

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