Background

Bariatric surgery is at present one of the most effective treatments for the disease of morbid obesity and its associated co-morbidities. However, achieving optimal outcomes post-surgery is highly dependent on psychosocial and behavioral variables. A growing body of research investigating psychosocial status on behavior is gaining traction, but further research is warranted. Weight-related stigma is a predictor of adherence to health behaviors among people suffering from obesity, but no research to date has investigated the role of weight stigma among bariatric surgery patients.

Methods

Individuals approved for bariatric surgery at a large public healthcare system in the southeastern U.S. were invited to complete a survey comprised of established scales to assess body esteem (BES), stigma consciousness (SCQ), and perceived social and health behavior competencies. Regression analyses were used to assess the predictive strength of psychosocial status on adherence to and adoption of health behaviors. The sample (n=104) was majority female (87%), White (74%), with a mean age of 44, and BMI of 49.

Results

Regression analyses indicated that stigma consciousness was negatively related to body esteem (b=-.370,), and perceived social acceptance (b=-.382). Stigma consciousness was not predictive of perceived competence in or barriers to healthy behaviors, but body esteem was negatively related to perceived barriers to healthy eating (b=-.230), and perceived social acceptance was related to perceived competence in physical activity (b=246).

Conclusions

Recent estimates indicate that weight-related stigma and discrimination has reached unprecedented prevalence and plays an implicit but detrimental role in weight loss efforts among people suffering from obesity. Understanding its effects among bariatric patients is an important step toward providing the services necessary to reap optimal outcomes.