Plastic Surgery as an economic indicator?

Monday, July 26, 2010
We're all used to hearing the news about housing starts, retail sales, and employment figures. These are economic indicators - ways to indirectly sort out what's happening with the U.S. economy. Get this: two new studies now suggest that the workload of your friendly neighbourhood plastic surgeon may be another statistically valid way to tell how well the economy is doing.

In this month's issues of both ASJ and PRS, are studies from two separate plastic surgery groups examining this very correlation. One was from the Cleveland Clinic, the other from Loma Linda University Department of Plastic Surgery. They each found that the average surgeon revenue from cosmetic surgery procedures in their group very closely correlated with typical stock market indices, such as the S&P 500, the Dow Jones Industrial Average and others, at least looking retrospectively over the last few years. When their surgery income was up, so were the stock markets. When the market was down, their cosmetic surgery schedule was quiet.

If anything, the graphs suggested that Plastic Surgery activity was a leading indicator - in other words, changes here preceded the change in the economy, by about one month. This, to me, was the surprising part - I would have guessed that Surgery volume would have been a coincident or lagging indicator of the economy.

My financial advisor, Ed, always jokes with me about the "boobs & butts" index - which is his casual way of asking me how busy I am. It looks like he's right after all!

Thomas Fiala, MD 7/26/2010

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