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Plastic surgery takes years off appearance, study finds


(CBS) Can plastic surgery turn back the clock? According to a new study, it can make patients look up to nine years younger than their chronological age.

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The study, published Feb. 20 in the Archives of Plastic Surgery, aimed to put a number on the years that could be "restored" through surgery.

For the study, researchers at the University of Toronto studied 60 patients, between 45 and 72 years of age, who had undergone cosmetic facial surgeries. The patients were divided into three groups: the first had face and neck lifts; the second had face and neck lifts and eyelid work; the third had eyelid work and face, neck, and forehead lifts. Forty volunteer medical school students then guessed patients' ages based on photographs.

Results showed that prior to surgery, patients' ages were estimated to be an average of 1.7 years younger than their actual age. After plastic surgery, that number shifted to 8.9 years younger.

Changes in perceived age differed among the groups. The average perceived change in the first group was 5.7 years, 7.5 years in the second, and 8.5 years in the third - 7.2 years on average.

Researchers said the volunteers who rated the photographs did not differ significantly between each other in their estimates - although some consistently rated patients older and others younger.

"Our findings offer some objective sense as to our success with surgical intervention as facial plastic surgeons and provide us with more evidence to give patients when formulating their preoperative expectations," study authors commented.

Dr. Michael Olding, director of the division of plastic surgeon at George Washington University, told HealthDay the research "points to the obvious" when it comes to multiple procedures - "The more the merrier, or in this case, the more the younger." Olding said "doing a number of small things makes a tremendous difference when combined, rather than making a tremendous difference in one area."

Aesthetic plastic surgeries "may not fall under the realm of medically necessary procedures," study authors said, but "there stems an innate desire to be as young and attractive as possible." According to the authors, physical appearance and how we are perceived by others have implications for one's sense of well-being, self-esteem and self-confidence, as well as social and psychological functioning.

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