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Despite Risks, Adults Not Shying Away from Cosmetic Surgery and Other Treatments

Of those who underwent such treatments, nine percent said they were 'very concerned' about the potential risks or complications.

Outpatient cosmetic surgery with a quick recovery, like Lasik, is becoming more and more popular.


ROCHESTER, N.Y., Feb. 13, 2006 /PRNewswire/ -- In an era of rising out-of-pocket costs for healthcare, a small but slightly increasing minority of U.S. adults are opting for expensive invasive cosmetic treatments that are not always covered by medical insurance, according to the results of a new Wall Street Journal Online/Harris Interactive Health-Care Poll. Similar numbers of adults say they have had invasive (7%) and non-invasive (8%) cosmetic surgery or other treatments and many of these procedures, regardless of their invasiveness, appear to be elective rather than medically necessary. The poll also shows that while the percentage of adults who have undergone cosmetic surgery or other treatments remains relatively small, directionally, those who have undergone a treatment are slightly more likely now than two years ago to report experiencing problems that required follow-up.

These are some of the results of the online survey of 2,066 U.S. adults conducted by Harris Interactive® between January 23 and 25, 2006 for the Wall Street Journal Online's Health Industry Edition.

Is there a doctor in the house?

Majorities of those who have undergone a non-invasive treatment said they had their procedure(s) performed by a medical doctor with a medical degree or another medical professional. Laser treatments appear to be the exception to this rule. While two in five adults who had laser treatment say the procedure was performed by a medical doctor (22%) or another medical professional (17%), 61 percent say the procedure was performed by a technician, an increase of 25 percentage points from 2004.(1)

Elective vs. medically necessary procedures

With the exception of bariatric surgery, majorities of those who have undergone invasive cosmetic surgery or other treatments say their procedure was elective rather than medically necessary. While a majority (54%) of those who had bariatric surgery said it was medically necessary, elective bariatric surgery doubled in popularity within the past two years, from 23 to 46 percent.(2) Interestingly, the opposite can be said for liposuction. Electively, it fell from 96 to 81 percent, yet medically necessary liposuction increased from four to 19 percent.(3)

Treatment concerns

While a majority of those who have undergone any cosmetic treatment or other procedure say they were not very (26%) or not at all (37%) concerned prior to the treatment about the potential risks or complications, 33 percent say they were somewhat concerned and nine percent say they were very concerned. These percentages increase substantially for those who have undergone an invasive procedure (47% somewhat concerned, 17% very concerned). These concerns appear to be somewhat warranted as one in 10 (10%) report experiencing medical problems that required follow-up as a result of any cosmetic surgery or other treatment they received, up slightly from seven percent in 2004.

The poll also reveals concerns about treatments that are conducted by technicians. More than half of adults who have never had cosmetic surgery or other treatments say they would be somewhat (24%) or very (32%) concerned about receiving such treatments from someone other than a medically trained doctor.

Downloadable PDFs of Wall Street Journal Online/Harris Interactive Health- Care Polls are posted at


This poll was conducted online in the United States between January 23 and 25, 2006 among a nationwide cross section of 2,066 adults aged 18 and over, of whom 332 have had cosmetic surgery and/or other treatments. Figures for age, sex, race/ethnicity, education, income and region were weighted where necessary to align with population proportions. Propensity score weighting was also used to adjust for respondents' propensity to be online. In theory, with probability samples of this size, one could say with 95 percent certainty that the overall results have a sampling error of plus or minus 3 percentage points of what they would be if the entire U.S. adult population had been polled with complete accuracy. Sampling error for the various sub-samples is higher and varies. Unfortunately, there are several other possible sources of error in all polls or surveys that are probably more serious than theoretical calculations of sampling error. They include refusals to be interviewed (nonresponse), question wording and question order, and weighting. It is impossible to quantify the errors that may result from these factors. This online sample was not a probability sample.

These statements conform to the principles of disclosure of the National Council on Public Polls.

About the Survey

The Wall Street Journal Online/Harris Interactive Health-Care Poll is an exclusive poll that is published in the award-winning Health Industry Edition of The Wall Street Journal Online at

About The Wall Street Journal Online

The Wall Street Journal Online at, published by Dow Jones & Company (NYSE: DJ;, is the largest paid subscription news site on the Web. Launched in 1996, the Online Journal continues to attract quality subscribers that are at the top of their industries, with 764,000 subscribers world-wide as of Q3, 2005.

The Online Journal provides in-depth business news and financial information 24 hours a day, seven days a week, with insight and analysis, including breaking business and technology news and analysis from around the world. It draws on the Dow Jones network of more than 1,800 business and financial news staff-the largest network of business and financial journalists in the world. The Online Journal also features exclusive content, including interactive graphics on business and world news, and online-only columns about the automotive industry, technology, personal finance and more.

The Online Journal offers three industry-specific verticals: the award- winning Health, Media & Marketing and now Law. Health offers authoritative analysis, breaking news and commentary from top industry journalists. Media & Marketing is designed for professionals in the advertising, marketing, entertainment and media industries. Law is designed to provide law firms and attorneys timely information on events and trends important to the legal market. Subscribers to all also get access to the full content of the Online Journal.

In 2005, the Online Journal was awarded a Codie Award for Best Online News Service for the second consecutive year, and its Health Industry Edition was awarded Best Online Science or Technology Service for the third consecutive year. In 2004, the Online Journal received an EPpy Award for Best Internet Business Service over 1 million monthly visitors.

The Wall Street Journal Online network includes,,, and

About Harris Interactive

Harris Interactive Inc. (, based in Rochester, New York, is the 13th largest and the fastest-growing market research firm in the world, most widely known for The Harris Poll® and for its pioneering leadership in the online market research industry. Long recognized by its clients for delivering insights that enable confident business decisions, the Company blends the science of innovative research with the art of strategic consulting to deliver knowledge that leads to measurable and enduring value.

Harris Interactive serves clients worldwide through its United States, Europe ( and Asia offices, its wholly- owned subsidiary Novatris in Paris, France (, and through an independent global network of affiliate market research companies. EOE M/F/D/V

To become a member of the Harris Poll Online(SM) and be invited to participate in future online surveys, go to

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