Even among Men, Scars Adversely Affect Body Image

May 19, 2014
Jeannette Y. Wick, RPh, MBA, FASCP

Surgical Rounds®, May 2014,

Although healthcare professionals tend to believe women are more concerned about the cosmetics of scarring than men, a study published online in the American Journal of Men's Health has uncovered exactly how men feel about their scars.

Among patients’ many concerns with surgery is scarring, which helps explain why an entire industry has developed around preventing, minimizing, and removing scars. Although healthcare professionals tend to believe women are more concerned about the cosmetics of scarring than men, a study published online in the American Journal of Men’s Health has uncovered exactly how men feel about their scars.

Curious to learn whether a scar’s source mattered to men, the authors classified scars as accidental, surgical, or nonsuicidal self-harming injuries (NSSI), which are common among younger patients who have impulse control issues and inflict an injury to distinguish themselves or relieve their emotional pain. In the study, 19 of the 109 male participants had NSSI scars, while 96 of the 185 female participants did.

When the researchers examined all of the questionnaire results, women’s body images were significantly more negative than men’s on clinical subscales that measured appearance evaluation, appearance orientation, and body area satisfaction. However, when they looked at the subsample of participants whose scars resulted from NSSI, men and women had similar body image assessment results. In fact, men with NSSI scars were more likely to have a negative body image regardless of whether the scar was visible.

With more male patients undergoing cosmetic surgery for a host of reasons, men’s dissatisfaction with body image is a growing concern for healthcare professionals. As a result, surgeons may see more male patients with worries about post-surgical scars, desires for scar revisions, or negative body image due to self-inflicted scars. However, this study suggests NSSI scars adversely affect men’s body image more than accidental or surgical scars.