Health, Social Life Improve After Weight-Loss Surgery: Study

Patients sought better condition, self-esteem, activity levels

SATURDAY, Aug. 18 (HealthDay News) -- Weight-loss surgery to treat obesity not only improves people's health, but also benefits their relationships and social lives, a new study finds.

Researchers from Arizona State University questioned more than 200 adults who underwent weight-loss surgery about their surgical results as well as why they wanted the operation in the first place.

The patients, who ranged in age from 26 to 73 years, were asked about their health and self-esteem, and any changes they experienced in their social lives, their work and their ability to be physically active after the surgery.

The researchers found a big reason the patients decided to have the surgery was to lower their risk for health problems. They also wanted to look better and boost their self-confidence. Many patients also said they wanted to be able to be more physically active and avoid the stigma associated with being overweight.

Following weight-loss surgery, the patients lost an average of 95 pounds per person. As a result of this weight loss, the patients achieved many of their surgery goals, including better health, the study revealed.

"We thought there would be more negative reactions to the surgery, but the response was very positive," study co-author Jennie Jacobs Kronenfeld, an Arizona State University School of Social and Family Dynamics professor, said in a news release from the American Sociological Association. "Most people had improvements in chronic health problems."

Specifically, the patients experienced improvements in diabetes, heart disease and sleep apnea. They also reduced their cholesterol levels.

The study showed the participants were also able to be more active. The patients who wanted to undergo weight-loss surgery to avoid negativity from their family and friends added that their relationships improved and they felt less depressed after their operation.

"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," explained study co-author Doris Palmer, a doctoral student in the School of Social and Family Dynamics' sociology program.

Although the participants were satisfied with their appearance, they didn't feel as good about how they looked as they did about other improvements related to the surgery, the researchers noted.

"They may have hanging skin and those kinds of issues to deal with," Kronenfeld noted. "It's not clear if most insurance companies will cover treatment of those issues since it may be considered cosmetic."

Weight-loss surgery is increasingly common in the United States as legions of people struggle with obesity. The American Society for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery reported that roughly 220,000 procedures were performed in 2009.

The study was scheduled for presentation Saturday at the annual meeting of the American Sociological Association in Denver. The data and conclusions of research presented at medical meetings should be viewed as preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed journal.

More information

The U.S. National Library of Medicine has more about weight-loss surgery.

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