Causal Attributions for Obesity Among Patients Seeking Surgical Versus Behavioral/Pharmacological Weight Loss Treatment

Obes Surg. 2018 Nov;28(11):3724-3728. doi: 10.1007/s11695-018-3490-7.


Obesity is frequently attributed to causes such as laziness and lack of willpower and personal responsibility. The current study identified causal attributions for obesity among patients seeking bariatric surgery and compared them to those among patients seeking less invasive weight loss treatment (behavioral/pharmacological). The 16-item Causal Attributions for Obesity scale (CAO; rated 1-7) was administered to 102 patients seeking bariatric surgery (sample 1) and 178 patients seeking behavioral/pharmacological weight loss treatment (sample 2). Between-subjects analyses compared CAO ratings for the two samples. Results showed that behavioral factors were the highest-rated attributions in both samples. Sample 1 had higher ratings of biological and environmental factors than did sample 2. Overall, patients seeking bariatric surgery had a more complex conceptualization of obesity than did patients seeking behavioral/pharmacological treatment.

Trial registration: NCT02388568.

Keywords: Attributions; Obesity; Personal responsibility.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Anti-Obesity Agents / therapeutic use
  • Bariatric Surgery / psychology*
  • Behavior Therapy
  • Factor Analysis, Statistical
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Obesity / etiology
  • Obesity / psychology*
  • Obesity / therapy
  • Obesity, Morbid
  • Social Perception
  • Weight Loss
  • Weight Reduction Programs


  • Anti-Obesity Agents

Associated data