Background: Obesity is a stigmatizing condition associated with adverse psychosocial consequences. The relative importance of weight stigma in reducing health utility or the value a person places on their current health state is unknown.
Methods: We conducted a telephone survey of patients with obesity. All were seeking weight loss surgery at two bariatric centers (70 % response rate). We assessed patients' health utility (preference-based quality life measure) via a series of standard gamble scenarios assessing patients' willingness to risk death to lose various amounts of weight or achieve perfect health (range 0 to 1; 0 = death and 1 = most valued health/weight state). Multivariable models assessed associations among quality of life domains from the Short-form 36 (SF-36) and Impact of Weight on Quality of Life-lite (IWQOL-lite) and patients' health utility.
Results: Our study sample (n = 574) had a mean body mass index of 46.5 kg/m(2) and a mean health utility of 0.87, reflecting the group's average willingness to accept a 13 % risk of death to achieve their most desired health/weight state; utilities were highly variable, however, with 10 % reporting a utility of 1.00 and 27 % reporting a utility lower than 0.90. Among the IWQOL-lite subscales, Public Distress and Work Life were the only two subscales significantly associated with patients' utility after adjustment for sociodemographic factors. Among the SF-36 subscales, Role Physical, Physical Functioning, and Role Emotional were significantly associated with patients' utility. When the leading subscales on both IWQOL-lite and SF-36 were considered together, Role Physical, Public Distress, and to a lesser degree Role Emotional remained independently associated with patients' health utility.
Conclusion: Patients seeking weight loss surgery report health utilities similar to those reported for people living with diabetes or with laryngeal cancer; however, utility values varied widely with more than a quarter of patients willing to accept more than a 10 % risk of death to achieve their most valued health/weight state. Interference with role functioning due to physical limitations and obesity-related social stigma were strong determinants of reduced health utility.