Thursday, January 25, 2001
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Posted on: Thursday, January 25, 2001

Poll finds Americans deny the influence of good looks

USA Today

Americans overwhelmingly claim that physical appearance hardly matters, but record numbers are dyeing their hair and getting plastic surgery, a national survey out Monday shows.

Some 9 percent of women 55 to 64 have had cosmetic surgery, and 16 percent expect to get it in the future. Among women 45 to 54, 71 percent use hair coloring to hide their gray.

Though women are far more likely than men to go under the knife or color their hair, about two-thirds of both sexes believe aging women aren’t viewed any more negatively than older men.

"That’s baloney," says Los Angeles psychologist Debbie Then, a body-image expert.

"We know there’s a double standard, from countless studies. Men want to be around attractive young women. There is more discrimination against aging women, as partners and in the executive suite," she says

The poll of 2,008 adults was done by Roper Starch Worldwide for AARP.

Among poll findings:

More than 90 percent are satisfied with how they look, while 60 percent say inner beauty trumps appearance.

Only about one out of four women say being physically attractive is essential to them. Two out of three put family time as their top priority.

38 is the age of peak physical attractiveness. But the older one gets, the older the "best-looking" age. It’s 30 for those under 35, 46 at 65-plus.

About three out of five say it’s fine to get plastic surgery. But one-third think those who do are probably insecure.

Cosmetic surgery procedures nearly tripled from 1992 to 1999, up from 367,000 to 1 million, according to the American Society of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgeons.

"If people didn’t care about their appearance, why would they be spending all this money?" asks Connecticut College psychologist Joan Chrisler. "And where are all the older female anchors, if aging doesn’t matter? On these surveys, people often answer what they wish were true or what they want to believe."

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