Suicide Risk May be Lower Than Expected for Breast Augmentation Patients Says Leading Suicide Expert

New York, NY (September 24, 2003) — New analysis shows that actual suicide rates may be lower than expected among women who undergo breast augmentation, and that the procedure may actually confer protection from suicide, according to Thomas Joiner, PhD, Professor of Psychology at Florida State University and a leading expert on suicide.

"The essential point is that for reasons having nothing to do with breast augmentation, women who undergo the procedure are at greater risk for suicide," said Dr. Joiner. "This is because there are known variables that represent risk factors for suicide - including race, age, marital and smoking status, alcohol use, and a variety of other characteristics; and in these characteristics," he emphasized, "breast augmentation patients differ from the general population of women in small ways. Although these differences are small," he continued, "when small differences on key variables are combined, they can produce substantial differences in suicide rates." In other words, for reasons having nothing to do with breast augmentation, the subgroup of women who undergo the procedure should have a relatively high suicide rate because their demographic and other characteristics put them at greater risk.

Dr. Joiner analyzed the existing published data on the demographic, behavioral and psychological characteristics of women who undergo breast augmentation, and derived a statistically-based estimate of their risk for suicide. According to Dr. Joiner, even considerations of race, age, divorced status and smoking alone, without other behavioral and psychological factors, increase the expected rate of suicide among women who undergo cosmetic breast enhancement. "It turns out that, based on currently available data, the expected rate of suicide in breast augmentation patients should exceed the rate in the general population of women by 4-fold, but the actual suicide rate among these patients is lower than expected," said Dr. Joiner. "Therefore, the possibility arises that breast augmentation actually confers protection from suicide, presumably by increasing self-esteem and body image satisfaction."

"Dr. Joiner's analysis appears to provide a new perspective on recent studies claiming a higher rate of suicide in women who have undergone breast augmentation," said Robert Bernard, MD, president of the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery (ASAPS). "In addition, it is important to note that no study has indicated a causal relationship between breast implants and suicide. The vast majority of breast augmentation patients report high satisfaction with the procedure," he continued, "along with an increase in body image satisfaction. What the suicide studies may suggest is the possibility that a small percentage of women who seek cosmetic breast surgery have psychological issues that cannot be addressed by making improvements in their body image. Clearly," he emphasized, "this is an area that raises important questions that need further research."

Dr. Joiner has published six books and over 200 scientific articles on topics related to mental disorders including suicide. He was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship this year to support work on suicide and in 2001 was given the Shneidman Award from the American Association of Suicidology for excellence in suicide research. His current analysis of suicide risk among breast augmentation patients, funded by the Aesthetic Surgery Education and Research Foundation (ASERF), is soon to be published in the September/October issue of Aesthetic Surgery Journal, the peer-reviewed publication of the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery (ASAPS).

The 2100-member American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery (ASAPS) is the leading society of plastic surgeons who specialize in aesthetic (cosmetic) plastic surgery and is recognized throughout the world as the authoritative source for cosmetic surgery education. U.S. and Canadian members are certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery (ABPS) or the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada. Toll-free referral line: 888.ASAPS.11 (272.7711). Web site: www.surgery.org. ASAPS and its foundation, the Aesthetic Surgery Education and Research Foundation (ASERF), have sponsored research on psychological issues and patient satisfaction related to cosmetic surgery. These two organizations continue to educate their members with the goal of better serving the needs of patients.

 

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The American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery (ASAPS), is recognized as the world’s leading organization devoted entirely to aesthetic plastic surgery and cosmetic medicine of the face and body.  ASAPS is comprised of over 2,600 Plastic Surgeons; active members are certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery (USA) or by the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada and have extensive training in the complete spectrum of surgical and non-surgical aesthetic procedures. International active members are certified by equivalent boards of their respective countries. All members worldwide adhere to a strict Code of Ethics and must meet stringent membership requirements.

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