-- Robert Preidt
WEDNESDAY, Jan. 8, 2014 (HealthDay News) -- Whites are twice as
likely as blacks to have weight-loss surgery and people's views
about how obesity affects their quality of life is an important
factor in that difference, according to a new study.
The researchers interviewed 337 obese patients in the Boston
area who were considered medically eligible for weight-loss
surgery. The findings were published in the January issue of the
Journal of General Internal Medicine.
"It's been assumed that the racial barrier to weight-loss surgery is economic, that people don't have insurance, are underinsured or can't afford the co-pay or the time off work, and that's why we don't see certain groups seeking treatment," study author Dr. Christina Wee, of Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, said in a center news release.
"But, in fact, the patients we talked to rarely mentioned economic barriers, so that didn't account for [the] twofold difference" between white patients and black patients, Wee noted.
Education levels and the impact of other health problems such as
high blood pressure and diabetes also did not explain why whites
were more likely than blacks to have weight-loss surgery, the
investigators pointed out.
However, obesity-related quality-of-life issues -- such as
mobility, sexual function, work life, self-esteem and social stigma
-- did play a part in this racial disparity, the researchers
"What we found is that a significant reason that more African Americans have not considered weight-loss surgery is that obesity has not diminished their quality of life as much as it has diminished quality of life for Caucasians," Wee said in the news release.
The researchers also found that just as many blacks as whites
said they would consider weight-loss surgery if their doctor
recommended it, but doctors were less likely to recommend the
surgery for black patients.
That may be because black patients are less likely to feel that
obesity affects their quality of life, so they're less likely to
express such concerns to their doctor, Wee explained.
"Quality of life is clearly a very important motivator to patients with obesity. And what this study shows is that those quality-of-life differences across race are so important that they may actually drive decision-making in a way that creates racial differences in how people think about undergoing treatment," she said.
"It speaks to the importance of thinking about the whole patient, factoring in personal values and facilitating individualized decision-making," Wee added.
The researchers also found that women are several times more
likely than men to consider weight-loss surgery, and that doctors
are less likely to recommend weight-loss surgery to men than
Nearly 100,000 Americans have weight-loss surgery every
The U.S. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney
Diseases has more about
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