Cosmetic Surgery Numbers Provide Unlikely Economic Indicator

Last Updated: February 12, 2013

In a somewhat unlikely indicator of economic recovery in the United States a survey released by the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery shows that in 2010, the rate of plastic surgeries in the nation increased 9 percent over 2010. Taken in tandem with a 2009 Cleveland Clinic study, the rate seems to track with Dow Jones, Nasdaq, and S&P 500 levels for the same period.

In 2010, consumers spent $6.6 billion on a variety of procedures. The most popular were: breast enlargement or augmentation, eyelid surgery, tummy tuck, and breast reductions. Breast augmentation has held the number one spot in popularity since 2008, and the level of annual procedures apparently proved to be recession proof, even increasing by 2 percent in 2010. The total amount spent just on breast augmentation surgeries for the year was $1.2 billion.

Since 2007, however, liposuction, once a gold-standard procedure for weight loss and body sculpting, has declined by 27 percent. Both arm and thigh lifts can give similar results in terms of shape and appearance, and, due to the new concentration in America on weight loss and fighting obesity, people may simply be opting for lifestyle changes over quick fixes.

Facelifts were up by 35 percent over 2009 and account for $845 million, which is significant because the procedures are the second most expensive, averaging $6,600. The most expensive procedure Americans are seeking is the "lower body lift," which averages $7,904. This surgery is often performed after significant weight loss by dieting and exercise to remove excess amounts of skin.

While the rate of cosmetic procedures in the U.S. is far from the 2005 peak of 2.1 million, the fact that 1.6 million people opted for some kind of "work" in 2010 is a strong economic indicator, and industry watchers predict that when the 2011 numbers are tabulated, they will be even stronger.

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