Health & Social Improvements After Bariatric Surgery

Bariatric surgery patients experience an overall improvement in quality of life following surgery, according to new research presented at the annual meeting of the American Sociological Association this week. Obesity affects millions of Americans, with more than a third of the adults in the country now classified as obese. Bariatric surgery is a highly effective treatment for obesity and has been shown to not only induce significant and sustainable weight loss, but also improve many obesity-related health conditions. The new study looked at data from 213 patients, with an average age of 50, who participated in an online support group. In the study group, average weight loss was 95 pounds per person. Participants were asked a variety of questions about physical health, mobility, social life, work life, self-esteem, family life, and satisfaction with surgery results.

The study confirmed what previous research has shown in terms of physical health: that surgery patients reported improvements in chronic health problems such as diabetes, cholesterol levels, heart disease and sleep apnea. The participants also reported increased mobility. In terms of social and mental benefits, the study participants reported better relationships with friends, family and significant others, as well as a decrease in depression after surgery, providing evidence that overcoming the stigma of being overweight can lead to greater satisfaction in relationships and in social life in general. However, researchers found one area that participants’ satisfaction did increase as much following surgery: their physical appearance. While they still reported being satisfied with their appearances overall, they were not as satisfied as they were with other areas of their lives. Fueling this somewhat lower increase in satisfaction could be that following surgery, patients may have hanging or loose skin. This can be improved through cosmetic surgery, which may not be covered by insurance.

In terms of motivation to undergo surgery, the principal motivator cited was to decrease the risk of health problems, followed by to improve overall health. Next were to improve appearance and to boost self-esteem. The ability to be physically active was also listed as a motivator.

Expert weight loss surgeon, Dr. David Voellinger, spoke with us about the findings. He said: “This study reinforces the importance of weight loss surgery in not only improving health, but also improving quality of life. We see this issue on a daily basis in our practice at Southeast Bariatrics, but I’m not sure the public and other physicians are as aware of this important issue as we are. Weight loss surgery can positively benefit a patient physically, psychologically and socially.”

Related Reading: Improved Body Image Leads to Better Weight Loss

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