Bariatric (weight-loss) surgery is a frequent topic of conversation in the diabetes community, due to the potentially dramatic health benefits it can offer to people with type 2 diabetes and obesity. Less often discussed, though, are the social implications of having the surgery — especially why people want it (other than medical reasons), and the effects the surgery has on the lives of people who undergo it.
A recent study looked at how bariatric surgery is related to changes in people’s marital status following the surgery. While this study didn’t directly compare people who did or didn’t have weight-loss surgery, its results suggest that unmarried people who have the surgery may be more likely to get married afterward — and that married people may also be more likely to become separated or divorced from their spouse.
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Published in the journal Annals of Surgery Open, the study followed 1,441 U.S. adults for five years after they underwent one of two common forms of bariatric surgery — Roux-en-Y gastric bypass or sleeve gastrectomy. At the time of their surgery, 614 participants (43%) were unmarried and 827 (57%) were married. The median age of all study participants was 47, and 79% were female. Overall, 15% of participants were divorced, 5% were living with a partner, and 17% were always single.
Bariatric surgery linked to changes in marital status
The researchers found that in the five years after they had bariatric surgery, 18% of unmarried participants got married — a rate that’s higher than was seen in the general population over a similar period of time (about 7%), as noted in an article on the study at MedPage Today. But also during the five years immediately following bariatric surgery, 13% of married participants became separated or divorced — compared with about 3.5% in the general population. There may be many ways in which people who undergo bariatric surgery are different from the general population, so these numbers don’t automatically mean that having the surgery leads to a higher likelihood of changes to your marital status — but it’s possible that having the surgery did play a role in these changes among the study participants.
Among participants who were unmarried at the time of their bariatric surgery, certain factors were linked to a higher likelihood of getting married. People who were cohabiting with a partner were 5.25 times as likely to get married, and those who were separated from a previous partner were 3.03 times as likely to get married, compared with those were were always single. Compared with participants who had a high school education or less, those with a college degree were 2.36 times as likely to get married, and those with fewer depressive symptoms were 1.47 times as likely to get married.
Among participants who were married when they had bariatric surgery, certain other factors were linked to a higher likelihood of separation or divorce. Women were 2.08 times as likely to separate or divorce compared with men, while those who smoked were 1.74 times as likely to do so compared with nonsmokers. And compared with participants whose income was at least $100,000, those with an income of less than $25,000 were 2.48 times as likely to separate or divorce.
The researchers concluded that while most participants did not change their marital status in the five years following bariatric surgery, certain factors were linked to a higher likelihood of this happening. But further research would be needed — comparing people who undergo bariatric surgery with those who are eligible for the surgery, but decide not to have it — to clearly show whether having the surgery makes people more likely to experience a change in their marital status in the following years.
Want to learn more about bariatric surgery and diabetes? Read “Is Bariatric Surgery for You?” and “Bariatric Surgery and Diabetes: Questions and Answers.”