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Obesity and Depression: The Impact of Weight Loss Surgery

With many obesity sufferers battling depression, new research suggests that patients are more likely to attempt suicide in the three years after undergoing weight loss surgery than they are before having such a procedure.

October 8, 2015

The findings come from a Canadian study which tracked 8,815 patients in the three years before and after gastric band surgery. The research showed the suicide rate in this group is four times higher than that of the general population, with 111 patients having 158 self-harm emergencies in the years following their surgery.

However, the study does point out that although self-harm behaviours are frequent in bariatric surgery candidates, it’s unclear whether these behaviours are mitigated or aggravated by surgery.

Research by the National Obesity Observatory suggests there is already a strong link between obesity and depression. It’s believed that obese people have a 55% increased risk of developing depression over time, whereas depressed people have a 58% increased risk of becoming obese.

Although researchers are not sure why suicide rates are higher among bariatric patients, they said it could be due to an increased likelihood of alcoholism and stress after such a procedure.

Previous research has suggested that alcohol is absorbed more rapidly in those with a gastric band, as alcohol bypasses the stomach and goes straight into the intestine. However, other issues could also be a factor. With many gastric band patients suffering from excess skin following their procedure, this could also contribute to mental health issues and depression in some cases.

As a result of the findings, doctors have suggested that patients battling obesity need more support while undergoing a bariatric surgery procedure.

“Because self-harm emergencies are a strong predictor of suicide, these findings highlight the importance of screening for self-harm behaviours in patients undergoing bariatric surgery,” researchers wrote.

We believe it’s vital that surgeons and consultants discuss the gastric band process with patients before they go under the knife. With many obesity sufferers battling depression, it’s also important they’re offered ongoing support following on from their procedure to minimise the risk of self-harm.

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