UWLP lead four-month study
According to a recent snapshot study conducted by the Utah Women & Leadership Project, two-thirds of Utah women know someone who have gone under the knife for cosmetic purposes.
The study titled, “Cosmetic Surgery and Body Image Among Utah Women,” was co-authored by research fellows Janika Dillion and Robbyn T. Scribner. The study states that Salt Lake City is second in the nation in plastic surgeons per capita, making it second to Miami and ahead of Los Angeles.
The four-month long research explored factors such as the high levels of cosmetic surgery, societal standards of beauty, data of cosmetic surgery in the country and in Utah, and discussions of ongoing efforts to improve body image among women.
UVU student Ashley, who preferred not to share her last name, said she oftentimes faces pressure to look perfect and spends hundreds on make-up products. “I wouldn’t leave my house if I didn’t have a full face of make-up on,” she said.
The UWLP, founded by Susan R. Madsen in 2013, is best known for the research relating to Utah women in leadership that it provides to government entities and nonprofit organizations.
“Our snapshots focus on women in the labor force statistics, women in poverty, women in sexual assault. All the things that really look at the wellbeing of women, which directly impacts their voice, their confidence and their leadership,” said Madsen.
“Homogenous societies” are a possible contributing factor to higher rates of cosmetic surgery, according to the study. Other contributing factors include that 69 percent of people who have plastic surgery are white, as well as the cultural pressures to get married and start a family at a young age, where the median age of marriage is 24 years old for women.
“In Utah, 87.6 percent of the population identifies as white, and Utah tops all the states in having the highest population of one religion: 57 percent are Mormon. These factors might be linked to high plastic surgery rates,” according to the study.
The study also suggests that growing household incomes and social media might attribute to the pressure. Viewing pornography, where Utah was the first to declare pornography as a public health crisis, is another factor.
“There’s a lot of comparison in our society and the research on perfectionism,” said Madsen.“It’s easier to compare when people are the same color as you and the same religion as you. I think that would be a variable that would be a predictor.”
“I think it’s really high in Utah partly because of Mormon culture. You’re constantly comparing yourself to your neighbors and peers,” said former dance major Holly Williamson. “There’s a lot of pressure to look beautiful.”
Other research done by the UWLP includes studies on mammography, domestic violence and poverty among Utah women. Future research topics will explore mental health in Utah women and the pay wage gap.
Kimberly Bojórquez is a Los Angeles native currently pursuing her Bachelor of Arts in Communication with an emphasis in journalism, and a minor in Latin American Studies. From 2017-18 she served as the editor-in-chief of the UVU Review and worked at ABC4’s morning show “Good Things Utah”, Salt Lake City Weekly and the Daily Herald.
She has written stories that relate to national issues, local crime and social justice. In her spare time, she loves to take photos, hike Utah’s national parks and attend live rock concerts.