In the Journals

Adolescents see improved mental health after bariatric surgery

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August 3, 2015

Following bariatric surgery, most teens with severe obesity experience improved mental health; however, one in five continues to experience symptoms of depression, according to recent study findings published in Obesity.

“Most young people felt significantly better 2 years after surgery,” Kajsa Järvholm, a PhD student at Lund University in Sweden, said in a press release. “On average, they felt like most other adolescents, so their mental health had been normalized.”

Järvholm and colleagues evaluated 88 adolescents aged 13 to 18 years (mean BMI, 45.6 kg/m2) at baseline and 2 years following gastric bypass surgery to determine changes in mental health following surgery.

There was a significant decrease in BMI from baseline to 2 years after surgery with 50% of participants no longer in the obese range (BMI, < 30 kg/m2).

Two years after surgery, the researchers found that symptoms of anxiety (P = .001), depression (P = .001), disruptive behavior (P = .022) and obesity-related problems (P < .001) were significantly reduced. The researchers also found significant improvements in self-esteem (P < .001), self-concept (P < .001) and overall mood (P = .025).

Most improvements occurred within the first year following surgery with stabilization during the second year.

“There is also a big difference in how weight affected them in various social situations,” Järvholm said. “Two years after the operation they experienced far fewer limitations than before. Another important discovery was that some did not feel better. Just under 20% of patients said they still did not feel well after having surgery, and their self-assessments showed symptoms of moderate to severe depression. Thirteen percent showed symptoms of severe depression.”

Järvholm stressed that psychosocial support is needed for those undergoing bariatric surgery.

“In summary, we found broad improvements in mental health, self-esteem, mood and obesity-related problems in adolescents 2 years after treatment for severe obesity by gastric bypass ... indicating a mental health in the normative range,” the researchers wrote. “However, mood was still remarkably lower than that of age-matched norms, and 19% showed depressive symptoms at a clinical level 2 years after surgery.” – by Amber Cox

Disclosure: Järvholm reports no relevant financial disclosure. One researcher reports financial ties with Johnson & Johnson.

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