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Is Asian cosmetic surgery a bad investment?

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Tens of thousands of people in South Korea have cosmetic surgery each year to improve on their appearance and enjoy a better lifestyle. Unfortunately, their efforts may have far less impact on their income and living standards than they anticipate.

A team of researchers led by Professor Ryu Keun-kwan of Seoul National University and Professor Lee Su-houng of the University of Maryland recently presented their findings before the World Congress on Economics.

Over a hundred before-and-after sets of photographs showing patients who had undergone cosmetic surgery were distributed to undergraduate or graduate students at Seoul National University who then graded the pictures on a scale of one to five (essentially, very unattractive, unattractive, okay, beautiful, and exceptionally beautiful). The results were then compared with salary figures achieved by each group.

Undergoing cosmetic surgery helped the newly "okay" and "beautiful" groups to land jobs with an whopping average of 0.1 percent higher salary among males and 1.5 percent among females. In other words, for every one thousand U.S. dollars they could have made without surgery, the men made one dollar more while the ladies fared somewhat better.

So, considering the economic benefit (which happens to be a main, if not the main, driver for those seeking elective surgical care in East Asia) was the investment in cosmetic surgery worthwhile?

According to the study, “The average fee for cosmetic surgery on the nose and eyes is around 7 million won ($6,500 U.S.) and an average Korean makes around 32 million won a year."

What that means is that it will take more than 30 years for most of these people to offset their medical fees with the added earnings attributable to cosmetic surgery.

However, don't fret because there was an exception. If a patient became "exceptionally beautiful" after surgery, income rose more substantially and allowed those lucky few to pay off medical fees in "just six years."

“Being beautiful is helpful in both marriage and the job market in general," Ryu noted. "But it isn’t as powerful as many people think. The only reason people have fantasies about surgery is because they have heard about a very small handful of successful fairytale cases."

Full article here.

A more complete cost-benefit analysis can be undertaken here.

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Is Asian plastic surgery a bad investment?