Weight loss surgery undertaken by severely obese people might be linked to a higher risk of suicide in the years following the procedure, a report says, adding that the surgery is the cause of a higher suicide rate.
Weight loss surgery is increasingly being recommended for people with severe obesity, but the latest finding by The American Journal of Medicine suggests that this option may not be the best choice.
In the study, researchers followed up on Pennsylvania residents who had undergone bariatric (weight loss) operations between Jan. 1, 1995, and Dec. 31, 2004.
Of the 16,683 operations, 31 patients had committed suicide. About 30 percent of those suicides occurred within two years of the surgery and the other 70 percent occurred within the next three years.
The overall suicide rate among the bariatric patients was found to be 6.6 suicides per 10,000, 13.7 per 10,000 for men and 5.2 per 10,000 for women.
The study compared these results with U.S. suicide rates between the ages of 35 and 64 in the general population, which were 2.4 per 10,000 for men and 0.7 per 10,000 for women.
The authors of the study said that the findings do not imply that bariatric surgery is the cause of an increase in suicides. According to lead researcher Dr. Hilary A. Tindle of the University of Pittsburgh in Pennsylvania, the reasons for the higher suicide risk are unclear.
Her group’s study, based on data from death certificates, could not examine details surrounding individual suicide cases. It is possible, Tindle’s team speculates, that pre-existing psychological distress might carry over or even increase after the procedure if patients are disappointed with weight-loss results.
The findings indicate a general need for longer term monitoring of patients after surgery, Tindle said.