Tipping the Scales: Gender Differences & Weight Loss Surgery
Who Gets Weight Loss Surgery?
With the rate of obesity in the US still climbing, it’s not surprising that more and more Americans are getting weight loss surgery. Procedures like gastric bypass, sleeve gastrectomy, and others tend to succeed where other weight management approaches fail, and, especially as these techniques have continued to advance, stigmas surrounding them have largely been debunked.
But if you look at who is actually opting for weight loss surgery, you see some interesting things. Most notably, according to a wide-ranging assessment by Dr. Santiago Horgan and colleagues at the University of California San Diego Medical Center, obese men were much less likely than obese women to opt for surgery.  What’s going on there? A closer look at the study and what it implies will help shed light on this issue.
Equal Prevalence, Unequal Use
Dr. Horgan and the team had observed two important trends in previous research: that rates of obesity were equal between men and women, and yet 80 percent of weight loss surgeries were performed on women.  Their research was intended to figure what exactly was happening here: why were obese men so much less likely to undergo one of these procedures?
To get a sense of the patterns, the researchers looked at data from the Nationwide Inpatient Sample, tracking data from 190,705 patients who had undergone weight loss surgery between 1998 and 2010. In addition to gender, they also looked at race/ethnicity as well as socioeconomic status. In all years looked at, 80 percent of surgeries were consistently performed on women. Interestingly, poorer and minority women (Hispanic and African American) had higher rates, whereas the differences were smaller for older and wealthier white people. 
Clearly, these demographic factors were influencing who was undergoing these procedures.
Social & Cultural Differences
Digging deeper into these results, Dr. Horgan and the team identified several factors that contributed to the gender disparity, including “health awareness” and “perception of body image.”  Basically, men are less likely to be as concerned about their own appearance—thus tolerating their own obesity more—and are generally less concerned about their own health status. “We think some of it is cultural,” Horgan told UC San Diego Health’s News Room. “Women seem to be more aware of the problems obesity brings to health. They are much more willing to look at surgical weight loss earlier in life.” 
Largely, too, being older or experiencing other obesity-related health conditions increased the chances that men would opt for surgery. But the broader implication is that women feel more social pressure to look a certain way and are more tuned into their own condition. Underscoring this, Dr. Horgan pointed to previous findings noting between 72.8 of obese men feel satisfied with their own health, while this figure is only 56.7 percent in women.  Men simply aren’t as concerned about the way they look and what their overall health status should be.
A Ticking Time Bomb
What all this amounts to is that men are under-utilizing weight loss surgery. Since obesity has a massive impact on health overall—raising chance of heart disease, high blood pressure, sleep apnea, arthritis, and other conditions—this group is certainly taking a risk. To the researchers, one solution is emphasizing health counselling of obese men: “This skewed male body perception hinders the likelihood of seeking healthcare advice,” Horgan noted. “This is something we hope to change by educating men about the need to treat obesity earlier, so they don’t develop complications in the future.” 
If you’re an obese or overweight woman or man, it’s clear is that, whatever option is chosen, being proactive is essential. It’s not easy to lose weight, but the benefits are clear. The decision to take action could be the most important one you make.
If you’re struggling with your weight, the team at Evolve can help. These weight loss surgery experts have helped countless people achieve their goals in a healthy and sustainable manner. They employ the latest in techniques and technologies in a unique, patient-centric setting. Learn more about what they do by calling 469-638-0209 today.
- Horgan, Santiago, Hans F. Fuchs, Ryan C. Broderick, Christina R. Harnsberger, David C. Chang, Bryan J. Sandler, and Garth R. Jacobsen. 2015. “Benefits Of Bariatric Surgery Do Not Reach Obese Men”. Com. https://www.liebertpub.com/doi/full/10.1089/lap.2014.0639.
- Ward, Bonnie. 2015. ” Why Do Obese Men Get Bariatric Surgery Far Less Than Women? “. UC Health – UC San Diego. Accessed October 20 2018. https://health.ucsd.edu/news/releases/Pages/2015-04-29-men-less-likely-to-have-bariatric-surgery.aspx.