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Patient's perspectives

Surgery results in positive health and social changes

Study examined physical health, self-esteem, social life, work life, family life, mobility and with satisfaction surgery

Bariatric patients reported an overall improvement in quality of life issues after surgery, according to a study by Arizona State University researchers presented at the 107th Annual Meeting of the American Sociological Association.

The paper, “Social and Health Changes Following Bariatric Surgery,” assessed how bariatric patients felt post-surgery. The researchers collected data from 213 patients, aged from 26 to 73 years old (average age 50), via a self-selected sample of participants in an online support group.

Researchers asked a variety of questions in the survey that was made available through an online support group for bariatric patients. Study questions examined physical health, self-esteem, social life, work life, family life, mobility and satisfaction with surgery results.

“We thought there would be more negative reactions to the surgery, but the response was very positive,” said study co-author Jennie Jacobs Kronenfeld, an ASU School of Social and Family Dynamics professor. “Most people had improvements in chronic health problems.”

The study also recorded the patients motivation to have the surgery. In order of importance they were:

  • to decrease the risk of health problems
  • to improve overall health
  • to improve appearance
  • to boost self esteem

Health issues that respondents reported improvements in included diabetes, heart disease, cholesterol level and sleep apnoea. Study respondents also cited increased mobility as one of the positive aspects of having surgery to lose weight. Weight loss among participants averaged 95lbs per person while the range of weight experiences was wide (gaining 80lbs to losing 260 lbs).  

People who elected to have the surgery to reduce negative reactions to their weight among friends and family, reported better relationships after surgery. Respondents also reported a decrease in depression after the surgery.

“This provides evidence that overcoming the stigma of being overweight, as reflected by negative reactions of others, can lead to greater satisfaction among relationships with family and friends, and in social life in general,” said Doris A Palmer, co-author of the paper and a doctoral student in the School of Social and Family Dynamics sociology programme at ASU.

Satisfaction with how participants felt about their appearance was lower on average than satisfaction with other aspects after the surgery.

“They were satisfied, but not as pleased about the way they looked as with other aspects of their lives,” said Kronenfeld. “They may have hanging skin and those kinds of issues to deal with. It's not clear if most insurance companies will cover treatment of those issues since it may be considered cosmetic.”

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