Weight Loss Surgery May Be Linked to Heightened Suicide Risk

Published:November 17th, 2010

A new study revealed that obese people who undergo weight-loss surgery are at a higher risk of suicide in the years following the procedure. The report was published in The American Journal of Medicine and adds to evidence that patients who have undergone bariatric surgery in order to lose weight have an increased risk of suicide. Although the reason for this remains unknown, there have been a number of studies that have shown that although the rate of suicide for bariatric surgery patients is low, it is still higher than the norm for the general population.

There are benefits of weight loss surgery that have been well documented. The procedure involves altering the digestive tract to limit food intake and nutrient absorption, and obese patients can lose a significant amount of weight. Type 2 diabetes or high blood pressure can thus be reversed for people who developed such health problems because they are overweight.

However, the most recent study examined a longer period than any previous research, namely 10 years after undergoing the surgical procedure. Depression is common among obese adults, including those who undergo weight loss surgery. Axis I disorder represents a group of mental health conditions including depression, anxiety disorders, eating disorders and substance abuse. Two-thirds of the bariatric surgery candidates had experienced the so-called Axis I disorder but a history of depression or other psychiatric conditions does not exclude a person from having surgery. Thus, the higher risk of suicide is not related to bariatric surgery as such and this is why the study had not attempted to investigate the details surrounding individual suicides.

More research is needed to better understand the reason why bariatric surgery patients are associated with an increased suicide risk. The suicide risk could not be linked to how much weight a person lost after surgery. Any pre-existing psychological distress can be exacerbated if patients are faced with disappointing results for their weight loss goals.

225,000 Americans undergo bariatric surgery every year, according to the American Society for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery. This is why further research should be focused on the factors that contribute to the increased suicide risk among these patients.

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