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Patients Undergoing Weight-Loss Surgery tend to have Mental Health Illnesses, Study finds

Update Date: Jan 13, 2016 10:33 AM EST

Patients who need weight-loss surgery due to severe obesity tend to suffer from mental health problems, a new study reported. Due to this link, the researchers stressed the importance of improved screening for these problems before undergoing bariatric surgery.

For this study, the researchers had analyzed 68 studies that were published from January 1988 to November 2015 to further examine the link between weight-loss surgery candidates and mental health status. People who are recommended for bariatric surgery are generally at least 100 pounds overweight.

The team found that about 23 percent of the people who qualified for weight-loss surgery were suffering from a mood-related disorder. The most common disorder was depression at 19 percent. They also found that another 17 percent of the patients had a binge-eating disorder.

"What was striking to us is that depression and binge-eating disorder were both more than twice as common as they are in the general U.S. population," said study author, Dr. Aaron Dawes, a general surgery resident at the University of California, Los Angeles reported by CBS News. "Doctors need to be aware that mental health conditions are common among these patients, and refer them for treatment if necessary."

Despite the high rates, Dawes and his colleagues did find a silver lining - the patients' mental health issues did not appear to negatively impact their weight-loss journey after undergoing surgery. In some of the studies, undergoing bariatric surgery appeared to help with the patients' mental health disorder.

The researchers reported that in seven studies, depression rates fell from eight to 74 percent post-surgery. The surgery also reduced the severity of the depressive symptoms by anywhere from 40 to 70 percent.

"Although we certainly do not think that surgery should be considered as a treatment for depression, our results suggest that severely obese patients undergoing bariatric surgery may stand to gain mental health benefits in addition to the more-talked-about physical health benefits of the operation," Dawes noted reported in the news release.

The study was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

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