This story discusses suicide. If you or someone you know is having thoughts of suicide, please contact the Suicide & Crisis Lifeline at 988 or 1-800-273-TALK (8255).
Obese patients who have bariatric (weight-loss) surgery live longer than those who do not have the procedure, according to findings from a new study published in the journal Obesity.
Surgery patients, however, are also 2.4 times more susceptible to suicide — especially those between 18 and 34 years of age, the same study found.
Led by Dr. Ted Adams, a professor at the University of Utah School of Medicine, the study monitored nearly 20,000 pairs of participants over a 40-year span.
Those who had weight-loss surgery were 16% less likely to die of all causes. The risk of death dropped by 72% for diabetes, 43% for cancer and 29% for heart disease among surgery patients.
The lower mortality rate was seen across all types of bariatric surgeries and for females and males alike, the study found.
Dr. Trace Curry, a Cincinnati-based board-certified general surgeon who specializes in weight-loss surgery, was not involved in the study but said he was not surprised by the findings.
“This is in line with what I’ve been seeing for the last 20 years,” Dr. Curry told Fox News Digital in an email.
“Any time a patient undergoes a radical change in their normal lifestyle, this can place a strain on psycho-social interactions.”
“People live longer primarily because most of the time, their diabetes goes into remission, but patients also become more active — which we know also extends life expectancy. [They] see improvement or resolution of things like high blood pressure and sleep apnea.”
Dr. Siddharth Kudav, a bariatric surgeon with Bon Secours Surgical Specialists in Virginia, agreed that the study findings mirror his patients’ experiences.
“The benefits of bariatric surgery go well beyond the number on the scale,” he told Fox News Digital in an email.
“Bariatric surgery results in significant metabolic changes, which can improve inflammation, insulin sensitivity, hormonal balance and more, resulting in fewer long-term medical complications of untreated obesity.”
There are four main types of bariatric surgery, according to the Cleveland Clinic: gastric bypass, sleeve gastrectomy, gastric band and duodenal switch.
“All accredited bariatric programs require patients to have a psychological evaluation prior to proceeding with bariatric surgery.”
The most common of these is gastric bypass, also called gastric sleeve, which involves removing a large part of the stomach and leaving a smaller, tube-shaped portion to reduce the capacity for food.
In Dr. Curry’s experience, the gastric sleeve offers the best longevity vs. risk ratio for his patients — but Adams’ study shows good results for all four of the procedures.
Spike in suicide highlights need for psychological care
Among the study participants, suicide rates after bariatric surgery were 140% higher than for people who hadn’t had the surgery.
“Any time a patient undergoes a radical change in their normal lifestyle, this can place a strain on psycho-social interactions,” Dr. Curry said.
He requires his patients, he said, to get psychological screening prior to surgery; some need further counseling afterward.
Dr. Kudav of Virginia noted that patients with obesity already tend to have a higher prevalence of certain psychological diagnoses, such as depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, PTSD or disordered eating patterns.
“Bariatric surgery changes certain intestinal/metabolic hormones and may change absorption patterns for some medications, which may have implications [for] patients with certain psychological diagnoses and medication needs,” he said.
“Mental health is part of overall health and should be treated as such.”
“For this reason, all accredited bariatric programs require patients to have a psychological evaluation prior to proceeding with bariatric surgery, and in many cases long-term psychological support is necessary.”
He added, “Mental health is part of overall health and should be treated as such.”
Dr. Jess Diller Kovler, PhD — bariatric psychologist for Northwell Health at Northern Westchester Hospital in New York and the chief psychologist for Well By Messer, a weight-loss-focused medical practice in New York City — has evaluated hundreds of patients to determine whether they are suitable candidates for weight-loss surgery.
She also works with people who experience emotional difficulties after the procedure.
“In many cases, the reason people are seeking surgery is because they tend to overeat, but in large part it’s emotional-based eating,” she told Fox News Digital.
Post-surgery, one doctor recommends appropriate coping strategies, including attending support groups and speaking to former patients about their experiences.
She said she often finds that after surgery, patients struggle to find an outlet for their emotions when they’re suddenly unable to use food as a coping mechanism.
When evaluating patients before surgery, Dr. Kovler said she looks closely at their mental health history to identify warning signs.
“If someone has struggled with depression before weight-loss surgery, there is no reason to think that’s going to disappear after the surgery,” she said.
For those who are struggling to adjust post-surgery, Dr. Kovler recommends appropriate coping strategies, including attending support groups and speaking to former patients about their experiences.