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A dimensional qualitative research approach to understanding medically unnecessary aesthetic surgery



Consumers spend billions of dollars every year on products and services designed to help improve or change their physical appearance and performance. Such procedures, especially where surgery is involved, are not without risk of adverse consequences such as physical injury, irreversible nerve damage, or even permanent disfigurement. The popularity of appearance-enhancing cosmetic surgery seems to be rising, despite the many risks associated with it. To qualitatively investigate the complex interplay of relevant factors (including variables related to individual motivation, risk tolerance, self-concept, and societal standards of beauty), and to organize and analyze the resulting qualitative data, the systematic, psychologically sophisticated blueprint of dimensional qualitative research, or DQR (Cohen, 1999) was employed. Through in-depth interviews, content analysis of written material found on the Internet, and three focus groups, an effort was made to better understand consumer motivation for cosmetic surgery where there was no medical necessity. Findings and implications of this research are discussed. © 2011 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.