Background: Extant literature warns of elevated suicide risks in adults postbariatric surgery, making understanding risks for adolescent patients imperative.
Objectives: To examine prevalence and predictors/correlates of suicidal thoughts and behaviors (STBs) in adolescents with severe obesity who did/did not undergo bariatric surgery from presurgery/baseline to 4 years postsurgery.
Setting: Five academic medical centers.
Methods: Using a prospective observational design, surgical adolescents (n = 153; 79% female, 65% white, mean [M]age = 17 yr, Mbody mass index[BMI] = 52 kg/m2) and nonsurgical comparators (n = 70; 80% female, 54% white, Mage = 16 yr, MBMI = 47 kg/m2) completed psychometrically sound assessments at presurgery/baseline and postsurgery years 2 and 4 (year 4: n = 117 surgical [MBMI = 38 kg/m2], n = 56 nonsurgical [MBMI = 48 kg/m2]).
Results: For the surgical group, rates of STBs were low (year 2 [1.3%-4.6%]; year 4 [2.6%-7.9%], similar to national base rates. Groups did not differ on a year 4 postsurgical STBs (post-STBs) composite (post-STBs: ideation/plan/attempt; n = 18 surgical [16%], n = 10 nonsurgical [18%]; odds ratio = .95, P = .90). For the surgical group, predictors/correlates identified within the broader suicide literature (e.g., psychopathology [P < .01], victimization [P < .05], dysregulation [P < .001], drug use [P < .05], and knowing an attemptor/completer [P < .001]) were significantly associated with post-STBs. Surgery-specific factors (e.g., percent weight loss, weight satisfaction) were nonsignificant. Of those reporting a lifetime attempt history at year 4, only a minority (4/13 surgical, 3/9 nonsurgical) reported a first attempt during the study period. Of 3 decedents (2 surgical, 1 nonsurgical), none were confirmed suicides.
Conclusions: The present study indicates that undergoing bariatric surgery in adolescence does not heighten (or lower) risk of STB engagement across the initial 4 years after surgery. Suicide risks present before surgery persisted, and also newly emerged in a subgroup with poorer psychosocial health.
Keywords: Adolescent; Bariatric surgery; Suicidal behavior; Suicide; Young adult.
Copyright © 2020 American Society for Bariatric Surgery. Published by Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.