Public Education May Reduce Bariatric Surgery Stigma


The outside perception of women who lost nearly 100 pounds in 1 year varied dependent upon the method of weight loss, according to study findings.

“The findings of this research have implications for efforts to reduce the stigma of bariatric surgery, as well as obesity more generally. Educating the public about the fact that individuals who undergo bariatric surgery are required to invest a considerable amount of effort in changing their diet and exercise habits post-surgery might help correct some misinterpretations about surgery that can lead to negative judgments,” Lenny R. Vartanian, PhD, and colleagues wrote.

Researchers at the University of New South Wales recruited 275 men and women through Amazon Mechanical Turk — a crowdsourcing Internet marketplace — to determine whether educating participants on the lifestyle changes required after bariatric surgery would lessen the stigma associated with the surgery.

Participants were shown “before” and “after” weight-loss images of a woman who lost nearly 100 lb in 1 year. After viewing the before image, participants were asked to evaluate the woman by rating the terms lazy, sloppy, competent, efficient, successful, intelligent, self-disciplined, likeable, popular, shy, aggressive, unhappy and irritable on a sliding scale.

Later, participants viewed after weight-loss photographs of the same woman and were given three different accounts of how she lost weight: with bariatric surgery alone, with diet and exercise, or with a combination of surgery and diet and exercise. Besides evaluating the woman in terms such as lazy or competent, questions also were posed regarding how much responsibility she possessed for her weight loss.

Women who lost weight strictly through surgery received the most negative ratings for laziness, competence and responsibility for weight loss. Conversely, those who lost weight by diet and exercise received the most positive ratings for laziness and competence and were viewed as the most responsible for their weight loss. Ratings were more favorable for those whose weight reduction was brought about by a combination of bariatric surgery and lifestyle changes compared with those who underwent surgery alone.

Statistical analysis showed the participant’s age, BMI and sex did not have any effect on the results of the study, according to the researchers.

Disclosure: The researchers report no relevant financial disclosures.

This article was originally published by healio.com.