Obesity is a rapidly growing global problem of epidemic proportions and is especially prevalent in economically developed countries such as the United Arab Emirates. Obese individuals are increasingly considering bariatric surgery as their preferred means of choice for the reduction of excess body fat.
A team of UAE researchers decided to study the psychological characteristics that may potentially complicate the surgical management of obesity among Emiratis. The research team included; Dr. Ossama Tawakol Osman (Associate Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences from the College of Medicine and Health Sciences- United Arab Emirates university); Dr. Essam Emam (Head of psychiatric services at Tawam Hospital in Alain) and Ms. Fadwa Almugaddam (research associate with the College of Medicine).
The study included 105 Emirati patients attending a bariatric Psychiatric assessment clinic at Tawam Hospital, Al Ain, United Arab Emirates. Participants were assessed using standard clinical psychiatric interviews. In addition, the screening used instruments to detect Anxiety, Depression, degree of perceived Disability, Body Image, Quality of Life, and Multidimensional Body-Self Relations and appearance Scales.
The results indicate that out of 105 participants, 70% of whom were female. The frequencies of anxiety and depressive symptoms were at levels of 24% and 13%, respectively. Participants also reported perceived functional disabilities in the following: work/school (27%), social life (36%), family/home (35%), and religious duties (39%). Anxiety and depressive symptoms positively correlated with functional impairment and negatively correlated with quality of life.
The researchers concluded that anxiety, depression, perceived functional disability, impairment in quality of life, and disturbance of self-image were found to be common among participants in the study pursuing bariatric surgery for treatment of obesity. Recognition, assessment, and treatment of these symptoms are expected to be conducive to positive outcomes of bariatric surgery.
The instruments used in this study have been shown to be practical and useful in screening for both psychiatric symptoms and impairment in functioning in patients in the United Arab Emirates region. The instruments uncovered associations between severe obesity and significant psychiatric comorbidities, including depression and anxiety. The researchers highlight the need for more engagement from primary care providers in the mental health screening and early intervention or referral of obese patients, especially those patients seeking or pursuing bariatric surgery.
Journal link to the complete published research article.