It's no surprise that bullying can have widespread effect on a person's mental state — but according to new research, it could also lead to physical changes, for both the bullies and their victims.
According to a study from the University of Warwick, bullies and those that they bully are more likely than anyone else to want plastic surgery. Researchers studied almost 2,800 teens in the UK, analysing emotional problems, their levels of self-esteem and body image, as well as their desire to have plastic surgery. The study, published in the journal Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, found that over 11% of bullying victims and nearly 9% of those who bullied and were bullied had an “extreme desire” to have plastic surgery.
Girls were more likely than boys to want plastic surgery, with 7.3% of girls wanting surgery as compared with just 2% of boys.
Researchers theorised that while reasons for wanting plastic surgery varied, victims may be more likely to want to change their appearance due to the effect bullying has on their self-esteem. Bullies, on the other hand, may want plastic surgery out of a desire to be admired or looked up to.
"Being victimised by peers resulted in poor psychological functioning, which increased desire for cosmetic surgery," the authors wrote. "For bullies, cosmetic surgery may simply be another tactic to increase social status [...] to look good and achieve dominance."
Dieter Wolke, lead author of the study, told Yahoo that low self-esteem contributes to the desire for plastic surgery for both bullies and their victims. He also recommended that plastic surgeons work carefully with teens who seek cosmetic surgery.
"Our main message to plastic surgeons is: If young people present with a desire to have a cosmetic procedure, screen for bullying and mental health," he said. "There may be other solutions that help without risk and address the root problem."
Additionally, Wolke cautioned parents to discuss bullying with their children.
"Parents should be open to discuss with their adolescents, in particular, about bullying and to understand when their child expresses a desire to change with cosmetic surgery," he told Yahoo. "Bullies pick on anyone, and that includes often competitors — others who are attractive and competition. … It is mostly about power. And making someone who stands in the way feel without confidence and bad about their body enhances bullies’ power."
As the authors wrote, young people may have less of a desire for plastic surgery if the mental health issues that arise from bullying are addressed.