Incidence and Risk Factors for Deliberate Self-harm, Mental Illness, and Suicide Following Bariatric Surgery: A State-wide Population-based Linked-data Cohort Study

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Assess the incidence and determinants of hospitalization for deliberate self-harm and mental health disorders, and suicide after bariatric surgery.


Limited recent literature suggests an increase in deliberate self-harm following bariatric surgery.


A state-wide, population-based, self-matched, longitudinal cohort study over a 5-year period between 2007 and 2011. Utilizing the Western Australian Department of Health Data Linkage Unit records, all patients undergoing bariatric surgery (n = 12062) in Western Australia were followed for an average 30.4 months preoperatively and 40.6 months postoperatively.


There were 110 patients (0.9%) hospitalized for deliberate self-harm, which was higher than the general population [incidence rate ratio (IRR) 1.47, 95% confidence interval (CI) 1.11–1.94, P = 0.005]. Compared with before surgery, there was no significant increase in deliberate self-harm hospitalizations (IRR 0.79, 95% CI 0.54–1.16; P = 0.206) and a reduction in overall mental illness related hospitalizations (IRR 0.76, 95% CI 0.63–0.91; P = 0.002) after surgery. Younger age, no private-health insurance cover, a history of hospitalizations due to depression before surgery, and gastrointestinal complications after surgery were predictors for deliberate self-harm hospitalizations after bariatric surgery. Three suicides occurred during the follow-up period, a rate comparable to the general population during the same time period (IRR 0.61, 95% CI 0.11–2.27, P = 0.444).


Hospitalization for deliberate self-harm in bariatric patients was more common than the general population, but an increased incidence of deliberate self-harm after bariatric surgery was not observed. Hospitalization for depression before surgery and major postoperative gastrointestinal complications after bariatric surgery are potentially modifiable risk factors for deliberate self-harm after bariatric surgery.

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