Study Links Bariatric Surgery to Suicide

A Canadian study has revealed that individuals who undergo weight loss surgery, or bariatric surgery might experience an increase in risk of self-harming behaviors during the 2 to 3 years following the surgery. The fact that self-harming behaviors are strong predictors of suicide makes this finding even more important.

Researchers conducting the study looked at over 8,800 individuals who had undergone bariatric surgery. Those people were monitored for three years prior to the surgery and then again for another three years after the surgery. The total number of cases of self-harm reported during the 3-year period before the operation was 62. On the other hand, the number of such cases reported in the three years following the surgery was 96. This difference marks an increase by 545. The researchers said that the most common form of self-harm attempted by the participants was overdosing on medications intentionally; it accounted for a total of 115 of the cases reported.

According to the researchers, as self-harm emergencies indicate that the concerned person is at high risk of attempting suicide, the findings of the study highlight the significance of getting patients undergoing bariatric surgery screened for self-harming behaviors.

The majority of the experts agree that the general health of obese individuals improves significantly after undergoing bariatric surgery, a procedure that involves reducing the size of the patient’s stomach. However, the researchers informed that this Canadian study is not the first to suggest that patients undergoing the weight loss surgery might experience an increase in their chances of causing self-harm.

The lead author of the new study Dr. Junaid Bhatti said that some previous studies also succeeded in gathering evidence of augmented suicide risk among patients undergoing bariatric surgery. Dr. Bhatti represents University of Toronto’s Sunnybrook Research Institute as an epidemiologist.

Here it must be mentioned that the new study by Dr. Bhatti is special as none of the previous studies followed patients for the period prior to the surgery to the period following the surgery. Those early studies instead of comparing the same group of people before and after surgery compared patients who underwent the surgery to those who didn’t.

By comparing the same group of people before and after surgery, the researchers of this new study could use the patients as their controls and managed to eliminate variables like personality differences and genetics. The entire study has been published in the medical journal JAMA Surgery.