A new study, published in JAMA Surgery, suggests that “troubled people who have weight-loss surgery are more likely to attempt suicide following the procedure.” Patients who participated in a weight loss surgery were 50% more likely to attempt suicide. The study gained this knowledge by tracking over 8,800 patients in Ontario who had weight loss surgeries for three years before the surgery and three years after.

“Weight-loss surgery can cause a dramatic change in a person's life, and people struggling with mental illness or depression may not be able to cope,” said Dr. Amir Ghaferi, director of bariatric surgery at the Ann Arbor Veterans Administration Healthcare System in Michigan.

In the study, 111 patients had experienced 158 emergencies post-surgery due to self-harm. “About 93% of those suicide attempts occurred in patients diagnosed with a mental health disorder prior to surgery.” Researchers have noted several possibilities related to this increased spike in self harm such as “changes in alcohol metabolism after surgery; a substitution of substance misuse for food; increased stress; and changes in the levels of hormones that might affect the likelihood of depression and suicidal behaviors.”

This study is not meant to correlate suicide with weight loss surgery but rather advocate that those undergoing such types of surgeries are more vulnerable. “The findings do point to the need for improved screening of candidates prior to weight-loss surgery and better follow-up care in the months after,” Ghaferi said.

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