Morbid obesity affects as many as 6% of the population in wealthy nations. Researchers have long known that mental health problems can be common in people who are severely overweight. A new study has revealed that people who undergo bariatric surgery for weight loss may face a 50% higher risk of attempting suicide after the operation.
For the study, researchers analyzed more than 8,800 people in Canada. The subjects were followed for three years before and after bariatric surgery. Researchers observed that the risk of self-harm emergencies increased significantly, by approximately 50%, after the weight loss surgery. Almost all the emergencies occurred in patients who had a history of a mental health disorder.
The study said, "Intentional self-poisoning by medications was the most common mechanism of attempted suicide. Other methods of self-harm included alcohol, physical trauma and poisoning by toxic chemicals."
Lead author Junaid Bhatti of the Sunnybrook Research Institute, Toronto, said, "The findings suggest a need for more careful follow-up of bariatric surgery patients. Some 200,000 such operations are performed annually in the United States. These adverse events undermine the overall benefits of bariatric surgery."
The researchers did not identify specific reasons for the spike in self-harm attempts. Experts have known that shrinking the size of the stomach via surgical means can also alter alcohol metabolism, and may boost risky behavior.
The study is published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) Surgery.