Background: The study investigated associations between childhood history of being negatively teased (i.e., being made fun of) about weight with psychiatric history, weight and eating concerns, and psychological functioning in 174 bariatric surgery candidates.
Methods: Bariatric surgery candidates participating in a comprehensive psychiatric evaluation completed a structured diagnostic interview, a psychosocial history interview, and a battery of established self-report measures assessing broad aspects of functioning. Patients who reported a history of being teased during childhood about weight were compared with those who denied having been teased in demographic features, obesity history, dietary and eating patterns and psychological functioning.
Results: Of the study group, 88 participants (50.6%) reported a weight-based childhood teasing history and 86 (49.4%) denied such a history. Teasing was not significantly associated with demographic features or current obesity level. As expected, analyses revealed that teasing was associated with younger age of onset of both obesity and dieting. Teasing was significantly associated neither with the frequency of lifetime psychiatric disorders, including eating disorder diagnoses, nor with binge eating. Analyses of covariance controlling for childhood onset of obesity, however, revealed that teasing history was associated with significantly higher current levels of weight and shape concerns, depression, body dissatisfaction, and shame, and with lower levels of self-esteem.
Conclusion: Health-care providers should recognize the importance of a history of having been teased or made fun of about weight in bariatric surgery candidates. Although the prognostic significance of a history of such negative teasing for bariatric surgery outcomes is unknown, our findings suggest that such experiences are prevalent in this patient group and are associated with negative sequelae.