Is Weight-Loss Surgery Worth It?

Heightened suicide risk after weight-loss surgery

The American Journal of Medicine adds to the evidence that patients who have bariatric surgery to lose weight have an increased risk of suicide compared with the general population. While the absolute rate of suicide among bariatric surgery patients is low, it is still higher than the norm. More information is still needed to understand why bariatric surgery patients show an increased suicide risk. If there are pre-surgery characteristics connected to a higher risk, then some suicides might be prevented by more careful monitoring and treatment. There is speculation that any pre-existing psychological distress could be exacerbated if patients have disappointing weight-loss results, or if their overall quality of life does not improve as they had hoped.

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A Tragic Risk of Weight-Loss Surgery

While the risk of dying from bariatric surgery is ~1%, complications strike up to 40% of patients. In addition to being overweight, patients have other health problems such as diabetes and heart disease. In a review of nearly 17,000 surgeries preformed in Pennsylvania from 1995 to 2004, there were 440 deaths in the group, and 16 were due to suicide or drug overdose. Based on suicide rates there should have been no more than 3 suicides. Other reviews of bariatric surgeries show the same results, higher levels of suicides. No one knows why these surgeries are linked to a higher risk of suicide; however, research has shown a connection between obesity and depression, and the typical surgery patient may already be at higher risk for depression and suicide before the operation.

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Fat and getting fatter: U.S. obesity rates to soar by 2030

Half of the population in the United States could be considered obese in 2030 if life style changes are not made. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has reported that 35.7% of adults and 16.9% of children are obese. Significant increases of new diabetes cases a year, as well as of chronic heart disease and stroke, are expected. While it has been suggested that obesity levels may be leveling off, this has not been indicated in the cases of the important age groups. Health policy experts suggest that these effects could be curtailed if cultural changes, e.g. increased physical activity and altered eating habits, become accepted.

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