APR 03, 2018 9:02 AM PDT

How Does Weight Loss Surgery Affect Relationships?

The decision to undergo bariatric surgery is not one that patients take lightly. It’s important to look at all the health factors when deciding on this procedure, but new research shows that some aspects of patients lives, like relationships and other personal factors, should also be considered before deciding on surgery.

It’s not a quick fix, and it’s not an easy process post-surgery, and the research shows that many patients will have a higher risk of divorce, separation or marriage after their surgery and those issues should be part of the decision-making process.

The medical concerns surrounding weight loss surgery have been studied extensively. Risk and reward should be evaluated for each patient and their situation, but up until now, there hasn’t been much attention to paid to how a patient’s life will change socially and emotionally after the surgery.

The study was conducted in Sweden and was observational, using data from two specific groups. Patients undergoing bariatric surgery who were enrolled in the Swedish Obese Subjects (SOS) study were recruited and matched to obese patients in the general population who were not having surgery. The other cohort was comprised of patients from the Scandinavian Obesity Surgery Registry (SOReg) who were also matched to similarly aged obese patients who were not opting for surgery.

In the participants who underwent the surgery, there was an increased likelihood of patients separating or divorcing their partners or, alternately, meeting someone and getting married compared to those who did not have surgery. Some of that could be the result of the increased social activity many patients reported after surgery. With the operation resulting in better quality of life, including better fitness, less reliance on medications for health problems like high blood pressure, anxiety or depression, an increased social life is prevalent after surgery. Many patients regard it as a clean slate, where they can go out again and meet new people. There was also an association between the amount of weight loss and the odds of finding a new partner.

While meeting new people is easily understood as an aftereffect of weight loss surgery, the association between the procedure and an increased divorce rate is less clear. It could be that the operation improves the self-esteem and self-image of patients and they feel more able to leave an unhealthy or unsatisfying relationship. While it’s to be expected that much will change in a patient’s life after this kind of surgery, the study authors point out that it’s important for healthcare providers to advise their patients of more than just the medical factors. Informing patients that they may see significant life changes as well is recommended.

The study authors, in their conclusion, wrote “Our data suggest that bariatric surgery-induced weight loss influences interpersonal relationships. For persons with obesity who are single, a better chance of finding a partner might be added as yet another positive association of bariatric surgery-induced weight loss. Increased incidence of divorce and separation after bariatric surgery might be associated with increased tension in already vulnerable relationships or to improvements that empower patients to leave unhealthy relationships.”

There are some limitations to the study. It only included people living in Sweden, so it’s unclear if the results would be different in a different cultural environment. It was also observational, with participants answering questionnaires, which is not the same as randomized controlled clinical studies. In the SOS study, there were approximately 2,000 participants who had surgery that were compared to the same number of obese patients who did not have the surgery. In the SOReg study, the data was collected via an electronic database and included about 29,000 patients who had surgery and an equal-sized group of obese patients who did not have surgery. Factors like income, education, and family history were not taken into account, so that limits conclusions that can be drawn from the work. Check out the video below that features patients from the weight loss reality series “My 600 Pound Life” who have gone through relationship changes after their surgery.

Sources: JAMA Surgery, ABC News

About the Author
  • I'm a writer living in the Boston area. My interests include cancer research, cardiology and neuroscience. I want to be part of using the Internet and social media to educate professionals and patients in a collaborative environment.
You May Also Like
JUL 14, 2020
Genetics & Genomics
The Human X Chromosome is Sequenced From End to End
JUL 14, 2020
The Human X Chromosome is Sequenced From End to End
In a major milestone, scientists have completed the first sequence of a human chromosome that reaches from one end to th ...
JUL 27, 2020
Microbiology
Vikings Carried, and Helped Spread Smallpox
JUL 27, 2020
Vikings Carried, and Helped Spread Smallpox
A global vaccination effort led to the official eradication of smallpox, but not before it killed over 300 million peopl ...
JUL 30, 2020
Cardiology
Protecting the Heart Against Cardiotoxicity
JUL 30, 2020
Protecting the Heart Against Cardiotoxicity
Doxorubicin is a potent chemotherapy drug used for many different cancers. Unfortunately, like all chemotherapies, doxor ...
JUL 30, 2020
Health & Medicine
Navy Goes Overboard on Hemp Ban for Sailors and Marines
JUL 30, 2020
Navy Goes Overboard on Hemp Ban for Sailors and Marines
It may be a federally legal crop, but the Sailors and Marines of the US navy have been told they cannot use hemp in any ...
AUG 05, 2020
Cancer
A New Test to Analyze Cell-Free DNA in Cancer Diagnostics
AUG 05, 2020
A New Test to Analyze Cell-Free DNA in Cancer Diagnostics
Cell-free DNA (cfDNA) are small pieces of genomic DNA that have escaped into the bloodstream either through active relea ...
AUG 05, 2020
Health & Medicine
Regular Female Cannabis Users Report Greater Sexual Satisfaction
AUG 05, 2020
Regular Female Cannabis Users Report Greater Sexual Satisfaction
The impact of cannabis on female sexual function has always been unclear, but a study published recently in Sexual Medic ...
Loading Comments...