Weight Loss Surgery Increases Suicide Risk

Weight loss surgery can reduce the risk of life-threatening diseases, like type 2 diabetes, but it may increase the risk of suicide, a new study shows.

A new study finds that people who are severely obese and undergo weight loss surgery could have a higher risk of suicide in the years following the surgery.

Researchers from the University of Pittsburgh in Pennsylvania examined the deaths of nearly 17,000 Pennsylvania residents who had undergone bariatric surgery within a ten-year time period. Of these patients, 31 people had later committed suicide, according to researchers.

The overall suicide rate for people who had weight loss surgery was 6.6 per 10,000 people. The study showed a marked difference in the suicide rate between genders: 13.7 per 10,000 men and 5.2 per 10,000 women. Researchers then compared these rates with the U.S. suicide rate of the general population, which is 2.4 per 10,000 men and 5.2 per 10,000 men.

Although the number of people who had committed suicide after receiving bariatric surgery was more than double when compared to the general population, the authors of the study said that the findings do not imply that weight loss surgery is the direct cause of more suicides.

Lead researcher Dr. Hilary A. Tindle said that the reasons for the increased suicide risk is unclear, since her study relied only on death certificate data. Researchers were not able to look into the details surrounding each person’s suicide and whether they suffered from any emotional problems. Dr. Tindle told Reuter’s Health that depression or other mental health problems before bariatric surgery could be to blame for the increased number of suicides.

It is common for people who are severely overweight to suffer from depression, including patients who choose to undergo bariatric surgery, according to Dr. Tindle. Researchers also speculate whether pre-existing psychological problems could get worse if patients become disappointed with their lack of weight loss results.

Bariatric surgery has been proven to resolve numerous serious health conditions, such as type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure and sleep apnea. Health professionals currently recommend patients be monitored for a period of six months after surgery. In the University of Pittsburgh study, 30 percent of suicides among the patient cohort occurred within two years of the procedure, and 70 percent occurred within three years. Given these findings, researchers suggest that post-operative weight loss surgery patients should be monitored for a longer period of time after their surgery.

The study findings appeared recently in the American Journal of Medicine.

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