Study Shows That More Public Education Will Lead to Reduction in Weight Loss Surgery Stigma

According to a study by the University of New South Wales, outside perception of women who lost 100 pounds in a year varied depending on the way that they lost weight. Lenny R. Vartanian and his colleagues found that efforts to reduce stigmas of bariatric surgery and obesity in general will lead to fewer judgments. The study was published in Endocrine Today. They also found that educating the public about how the process works and that all patients must change their diet and exercise post-surgery may also help correct some general societal misinterpretations.

The study examined 275 men and women with Amazon Mechanical Turk, an Internet marketplace, to determine whether their lifestyle changes were required as a result of their bariatric surgery. They also looked at whether or not the stigma associated with their surgery changed at all as a result of those findings.

The participants of the study were given both before and after pictures of a woman who
lost 100 pounds in a year. After looking at the before picture, the participants were asked to give the women various adjectives such as lazy, competent, efficient, intelligent, likeable, popular, aggressive, sloppy, self-disciplined and unhappy on a sliding scale.

After this task, the participants of the study looked at weight loss pictures of the same woman and were three different ways she lost the weight. The first option was having bariatric surgery alone, the second with diet and exercise and the third, a combination of the first two choices. The participants were once again asked to evaluate her with adjectives. Many participants also posed questions asking how much responsibility she had for her weight loss.

The study’s researchers found that those that had women who just lost weight through weight loss surgery received the most ratings of laziness as well as less responsibility for their weight loss. Those who lost weight with diet and exercise received positive rates and less laziness responses. They also were viewed as the most responsible of the three options. The participants also saw the women who lost weight with surgery and diet and exercise as responsible, just not as responsible as those who opted out of surgery.

The study’s researchers also found that the participant’s age, gender and BMI did not affect their results. Ultimately, they found that better education to the public will help the general public understand the need for surgery for many patients and what the process entails. If they understood that a lifestyle change is imperative in these situations, they may be more likely to be understanding regarding the procedure.

Another study by Harvard Medical School published in the Journal of General Internal Medicine found that social stigma often pushes people to bariatric surgery. The surgery looked at 575 patients with obesity (average BMI of 46) seeking weight loss surgery. Despair was so great a need that patients would accept a risk of death as high as 13% to achieve their desired weight.

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